Last Fall I counted the cost of using my cane...and today I can say that I have pretty much reached the other side.
Now I can always see the benefits of using my cane and asking for help. I can see the benefits of being transparent and open. I am so grateful for the lessons I have learned in dependence and interdependence. I experienced the difficult moments and the joy of my mask of independence being stripped away. This hit me yesterday while giving a presentation to a group of future social workers from a local college. As I sat listening to my other coworkers speak I glanced around the room at each face that I could see...and I thought just for a moment about what made each of these students an individual, what made them, them? And as I got up to speak I was reminded that each of them has something, big or small that could hold them back from being the best social worker. And yet, if they use this aspect of themselves, it can also be used to strengthen and grow them to be more effective and influencial. I was reflecting on this while thinking of a conversation from the movie The Guardian. The below conversation occurs when Jake Fischer is potentially getting kicked out of the academy for getting arrested after a fight in a bar. Obviously, the whole conversation doesn't apply to me...but having context helps:
Ben Randall: [refering the the accident that killed Jake's friends] I've read the report Jake. Your blood alcohol level was zip that night. I'm guessing there was a flip for designated driver, you lost.
Jake Fischer: I guess that just makes it all go away, huh?
Ben Randall: No, it doesn't make it all right, it just makes it an accident. At least that's how it reads. You were 16 years old Jake. I'm not your priest, but if I was I think maybe you deserve a pass.
Jake Fischer: You're giving me a pass. You think you know everything, with your psychobabble bullshit. Why am I here? Why are you here, huh? Your too old to be doing this, you washed up here. You don't want to be teaching a bunch of kids in a pool, am I right? I don't give an eff what you read or who you talked to. You don't know about me.
Jake Fischer: I have me under control.
Ben Randall: I can see that. The only difference between you and me is that I don't wear the ones I lost on my arm. I know where your at Jake. I'm there myself. I ask myself everyday why I was the one who survived.
Jake Fischer: And?
Ben Randall: And if I can't answer that for me, I'm certainly not going to try to answer that for you. Have a seat. I want you to start being a member of this team. The team you have now. You have a gift Jake. You're the best swimmer to come through this program, hands down, by far, and you've got a whole record board to prove it. But you know what I see when I look at it? I see someone fast enough who's going to get there first. I see someone strong enough who's going to last. I see someone who can save a life maybe no one else could. You really want to honor then initials on your arm? Then honor your gift. Save the ones you can Jake. The rest, you've got to let go.
The difference between me and the person sitting on the other side of the desk, is that I have come to a place where I can acknowledge that God has strengthened and refined me because of my disability. He has transformed my heart and my mind to meet people where they are at because of the challenges I have overcome. I can empathize with these individuals, I can see that it sucks to be where they are at, however I can see that there is a greater hope than isolating in your house because you are afraid to leave familiar surroundings.
I also knew that this change had happened in my heart when I went to leave to spend time with friends a couple of times last week and thought to myself; "ok, what do I need in my purse?" And when the answer always included "cane" with out a second thought, I knew that this had become a part of my life. It si a part of me that I don't resent, a part that I don't regret. It is simply a part.
I am so grateful for the things God will continue to teach me and do through this journey and so grateful to recognize the victory on the other side of what felt like despair and hopelessness.