An Act Of Kindness Can Change Someone’s Life

Many of you don’t know this about me but outside of writing, I am an advocate for children and adults with Cerebral Palsy.

In March of this year, I started working closely with two other advocates. To be truthful, when I first found them I was so nervous to throw myself out there- the questions I kept asking myself over and over: Are they going to like me?  How am I going to be treated?

Well, looking back now, I’m kicking myself for being so nervous and asking those questions because both of them and the team have treated me with so much love and respect. They share mostly all of my work and say some pretty great things about all of the things I write- and for that, I’m thankful 100x- I knew from then on I had found my CP family.

You heard me say, team and family, I know what you’re thinking, “what do they call this team”? Can you really feel like family if you decided to get on board?” To answer both your questions, they call the team CP Dream Team and we are definitely like a family, so yes if you wanted to get involved you will truly feel like part of a family. And the advocates make sure we always stick together.

Every year, shirts with 250 names to represent the entire team are sold. I decided to buy one for the first time this year. Little did I know when I ordered I didn’t pay attention to the final total, $60.00.  The total for one was 30 I was questioning it, but I thought ok maybe it costs 30 more dollars to ship or something –no big deal.

When my order finally came, my dad looked at the package curiously. When I looked over at him, I saw the puzzled look on his face.

“What’s the matter dad,” I asked

He replied, “Nothing. But the package says there are two medium black shirts inside.

Silence.

“Two???” I thought “I didn’t order two.”

Maybe that’s why it cost so much…..

I wanted to keep the shirt at first- but I decided to do something else.

I decided to donate it to someone on the team.

So I messaged one of the founders and told her the mistake that happened with my order, and explained what I wanted to do with the extra one. She thought that was a great Idea and said that she would help me find someone to donate it to. Not even an hour later she messaged me back with good news, she had found someone

She explained that it was a mom and her daughter. The daughter had just had surgery, and all of the mom’s money that she saved for a shirt had to go to medical bills and expenses.  I was also informed that the mom ALWAYS orders a shirt every year, and this year, because of her daughter’s surgery, she couldn’t afford one this year and was super disappointed.  So the lucky person to get that shirt happened to be her.

So I sent the shirt in a package, included a special note and picture of myself. The mother received the surprise a few days later and I was crying because of how happy she was. I was crying because she and her daughter would be able to celebrate World CP Day with the rest of us this year.

The mom came to me through Facebook and told me the shirt I donated it her made her whole day and year. Hearing that directly to my face and coming from the recipient herself let me know I did something good for someone else.

And it made me feel so good.

My lesson for all of you today, a small act of kindness can not only make you feel good about yourself, it can make that person’s day. Do some good every day.  Whether it’s waving, smiling or helping someone.  YOU can be the sunshine or rainbow in someone’s cloud. All you need to do is an act of kindness- it’s that simple.

 

Juliana Ruggiero
Juliana is 18 and fresh out of High school. She graduated with High honors. Writing is something she really enjoys doing and everyone that knows her tells her she has a gift for it. Juliana is a hopeless Italian food addict, loves meeting new people and making new friends. She is very laid back and easy going. Juliana is here to inspire everyone and give it her all. She doesn't have a bad bone in her body. Her career began in July of 2016 after reaching out and offering to be interviewed for The Abler Blog. Since that interview, after seeing all the positive feedback she was getting from everyone, it pushed her to do more with her writing! Pushing herself to do more has lead Juliana to some of the most kind and supportive people she could ask for! She is grateful that she took that "leap of faith."

Be Better, Not Bitter

During my second to last year of college, I had the honor and privilege of attending a service trip to Alabama with the Center for Service in Action at my university. While on the service trip, I had the opportunity to serve the community of Selma, Alabama. I  helped to paint a local school and got to work with a class of adorable, little four-year-olds at a pre-kindergarten school, and boy did those kids steal my heart. I also got to do a training on Kingian non-violent conflict resolution, where we talked about the importance of community and connectedness with others to understand their plight. The service trip was most definitely an enlightening and deeply impactful experience.

While I was in Alabama with my service group, I also had the opportunity to visit some historical locations and museums to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement. After visiting the 16th Street Baptist Church, where in 1963 a bomb exploded and killed four young, African-American girls, we visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

The Civil Rights Institute showed the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement and was extremely heart-wrenching. I remember towards the end of the self-guided tour when I saw the actual belongings of the young kids who died in the church bombing, I could feel the tears well up in my eyes. One of the museum guides approached me and another girl in my service group and began to talk to us about our reactions to seeing everything in the museum. As soon as I started talking, I just lost it. The girl in my service group was crying as well. We told the guide that we couldn’t understand why people could do these heinous things to other people. It was heartbreaking.

The guide consoled us and told us that it was perfectly alright to feel these emotions. “My sweet girls,” she told us. “Sometimes people do bad things in ignorance. They don’t know any better, but we must teach them. We must teach them love, and that love overpowers everything.”

After hugging us for a while, and helping us move through the emotions, we thanked the guide for comforting and talking with us, and we proceeded to the exit to wait for the rest of our group to finish looking through the various exhibits.

We waited in the gift shop. It was there that I met the most miraculous and amazing woman whom I will never forget for the rest of my life. It was only with her remarkable wisdom that only comes with such age that she taught me the most valuable lesson of life.

We talked to her about what we took away from the museum. She told us how she had lived in Birmingham for nearly her entire life, and told us about her childhood in the city during the Civil Rights Movement.

“I remember sitting on the back of the bus,” she told us. “I remember the protests. I remember the church bombing.”

We had asked her how she coped with all of these horrible things that were happening to her, her family, and the community.

“You see, I learned to put those things behind me. If I dwelled on the horrible things, I could never move on. It would consume me,” she said. “Instead, I made an important choice in my life; I chose to be better, not bitter.”

We asked her what she meant by that, and she elaborated.

“I decided to not let it get to me. I decided to not let those things make me become consumed with hate. I decided that I would let it inform me on how to become a better person, and how to make my community a better place. I decided to rise above it, not stoop to that level.”

Her words just hit my heart with such a force. Be better, not bitter.

This woman had to endure things that no person should ever have to endure, and yet she did not let it make her full of anger and hate. She did not let it get the best of her.

She chose to be better, not bitter.

As we were leaving, I told her that her words impacted me more than she will ever know.

Recently, I had endured a very difficult situation in my life and had become consumed by it. The event evoked some very dark memories from my past that I had worked so hard to suppress, and when it brought on a sort of déjà vu, it really took a toll on me. It filled me with anger, frustration, sadness, and bitterness. I just couldn’t move past it. But then I remembered this wise woman’s words. Be better, not bitter.

So I decided to confront the problem head-on by talking to the person that had caused the hurt. ‘Be better, not bitter,’ I told myself. Through talking, I was able to find resolution and peace. decided that this event would not affect me anymore. I would not let it get the best of me. I would put it behind me, and remain positive moving forward. I would make sure that I only continued to be better, not bitter.

Emily Veith
Emily has her bachelor's degree in Political Science, and has always believed in helping and serving others. She wants to make the world a better place, and aspires to be a politician someday to do just that. She is an old soul who loves Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Glenn Miller. When she isn't writing about imperative news- and political-related, she can be found attempting new recipes, playing her guitar or reading a good mystery book.

I don’t want a cure all I want is awareness

As a woman with cerebral palsy, people often ask me, “have you ever thought about what life would be like if you were just cured of cerebral palsy,” and, ” do you even want a cure for cerebral palsy?”

My answer always remains the same, “no.”

I just want more awareness of cerebral palsy because let’s be honest, I love the way my body is formed, and I love the way God made me.

Yes, I must admit there are days where I become frustrated with my cerebral palsy like anybody would.  I think the most frustrating part for me is, a 22-year-old woman, seeing all of my friends live on their own and be independent.

I can’t necessarily do things without having the obstacle in front of me first like for example I always dreamt of moving up to the mountains and living in Tennessee. The reality is, I cannot do that because I would always need 24-hour care. So I need to live close to my family so that dream could never become a reality without me having to go the extra mile.

I’m not saying that I hate my life, but a lot of the times I wish that people would become more aware of cerebral palsy and what it brings to the world and understand our daily lives from our point of views.

I wish for Cerebral Palsy awareness month that the President of the United States would light the white house green for all the 17 million people globally that have Cerebral Palsy.

I wish people would not only go green for St. Patrick day, but they would go green for the 31 days we have in March for all the 17 million people with Cerebral Palsy out there.

I wish people would become more educated on what Cerebral Palsy is and what it entails. Part of teaching about Cerebral Palsy hits home for me because my biological father was not in my life until I was 18. Years ago we reconnected, but I found my relationship with him to be very difficult because he doesn’t have an understanding of how my Cerebral Palsy came about. He always says, “Your legs broke when you were a baby that’s why you’re handicapped.”

At first, I would get irritated and upset that he didn’t even acknowledge the fact that my condition has a name. For the fact that my legs are not broken, I just have low muscle tone throughout my whole body.

But then I got to thinking you can’t help what somebody doesn’t know. The best thing you can do is educate and bring awareness to it.  So that way when you go to bed at night, you go to bed knowing that you did your best to make people aware of your daily life.

When it comes to finding a cure, I say let’s worry about that after we start to see more outreach about cerebral palsy awareness. To the point where we can walk into a store in March, and they have T-shirts that say, “cerebral palsy awareness,” and, “go green,” or they have positive commercials about it.

Instead of the sad ones that law firms put together for parents with children with cerebral palsy to sue the hospitals if they feel their child’s cerebral palsy was caused by neglect.

Yes to some extent it does bring cerebral palsy awareness, and it makes people aware, but it doesn’t make people aware of the positive things. It doesn’t make people aware of the greatness that we all can do as a world phenomenon. Together we are one.

Tylia Flores
Tylia Flores is a 22-year-old born with cerebral palsy. Although her condition has affected her mobility, it has never affected her will and determination.

As a Person With a Disability, I Am Never ‘Sitting Alone’

I was seated at a circular table in a banquet hall — clad in a dress and a pair of heels, resting my throbbing leg.  My gaze was transfixed behind me, on the throng of partygoers darting around the room, eagerly snapping pictures, clamoring for the best shot of the guest of honor and calling out instructions to various family members.  As I waited to be called up for a picture with the guest of honor, my own eagerness manifested not in my movements, but in my twinkling eyes, my smile and my laugh.

I glanced back at the table — the immaculately-placed floral centerpiece, the cups of nuts and candies adorning each place setting, the smattering of soda cans and pale pink cloth napkins strewn across the off-white tablecloth.

Suddenly, my eyes fell on the seven empty chairs surrounding me.

In that moment, it occurred to me that an outsider’s perception of the situation would likely be flawed.  A stranger would see a slightly aloof, able-bodied young woman sitting alone, and a large family excitedly preoccupied with taking the perfect picture, not a tired, physically disabled young woman with a family who not only understands and respects her but also never questions her need to rest.

It was then that a stark realization struck me: In appearance, I was sitting alone, but as a person with a disability, I am never sitting alone.

I am the only person with a physical disability in my family, but I have been blessed with a family that takes the time to understand and responds to my physical limitations.  My family does not sweep my disability under the rug, denying its existence.  They do not insist on weaving my disability into every conversation, relating it to anything I cannot do well.  My family has developed a firm “middle ground” — acknowledging my disability in a subtle, unobtrusive manner, then helping me if assistance is warranted.  This particular instance was no exception.  My family’s perceived indifference not only demonstrated an understanding of my needs but also illustrated the utmost respect for my personhood.  By proceeding with their vigorous photography and allowing me to rest in the interim, my family quietly acknowledged my disability without allowing it to consume my identity and impede the celebration at hand.

My eyes wandered to the neighboring tables.  A few guests, all at least 50 years my senior, sat scattered around the room, quietly chatting among themselves.  I felt a strange sense of kinship with them; in that moment, my body felt far older than its 21 years of age, and I, like many of them, could not expend any extra energy.

Upon scanning the room, I was immediately reminded of all of the writers and bloggers with cerebral palsy who have candidly expressed that their bodies feel far older than their chronological ages.  I smiled, thankful for the connections I have forged with others in similar situations.  In that moment, I knew that so many others — in my town, in the nation, and throughout the world — would see the absurdity of the situation and laugh with me over the nuances of living with a disability.  Prior to discovering the vast reach of the disability community, I felt a profound sense of isolation, but in engaging with others in the disability community, I have found an unceasing sense of connection and belonging — a lifeline.

As a person with a disability, I am never sitting alone.

Living with a disability can often feel lonely and isolating.  It is easy to wonder if there is anyone in the world who can truly understand the distinct worldview it provides. However, by developing a strong support system of people who understand the disability experience and those who are willing to learn about the challenges those in the disability community face, I have come to realize that none of us is ever sitting alone.  There is always someone sitting with us — listening to us, validating our experiences and working to understand our perspective.  Even when we appear to be sitting alone, there invariably is someone silently helping us, guiding us, and providing us unconditional support and undying love.

I am never sitting alone.

You are never sitting alone.

We are never sitting alone.

We are all at this table together.

 

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world -- no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.

To the One Who Says I’m Too Good at Goodbyes

As we were in the middle of the calculated dance of a heated argument, strategizing our premeditated words to hurt the other, you told me that all I know how to do is say goodbye. That I don’t really give others a second chance. You had mentioned several instances in my life in which you thought that I had clearly turned people away and said goodbye. You told me how you thought that was cruel and heartless.

I’m too good at goodbyes. 

You brought up a time when I was in high school. How a dear friend had hurt me very deeply, and how, two years after going our separate ways, that old friend had came up to me one day and apologized. You claimed that when that old friend apologized to me, I still couldn’t forgive her because I would rather just “cut people off” from my life. While you got most of the story correct, I did not tell that old friend that I did not forgive her; instead, I told her that I did forgive her but would need time to get over all of the hurt and lost trust.

After our intense exchange, your words haunted me. I thought about it more and more.

I’m too good at goodbyes.

Was I really the type of person that just walked away from everything? Was that really the only thing that I know how to do? Did I just let go of every relationship when I thought it wasn’t going to work?

As I thought about it and analyzed the various events from my life, I thought that, perhaps, there might be some truth to what you said. Looking at my life under a microscope, I had realized that there were several people that I did say goodbye too. But I think the most enlightening thing for me was that I realized, more than anything else,  that it was a defense mechanism.

Not to excuse the behavior, if I really truly am too good at goodbyes. I have seen a lot of heartbreak and sadness in my life. There have been many people that have left my life. From losing my aunt and my grandpa, and my sister walking away from my life. To the group of friends that turned on me in my first year of high school and told everyone that they “kicked me out of the group,” and the friends who turned against me after I stood up against a teacher in high school and they all began to bully me, to the several people that hurt me in college, to the (negatively) changing relationship with a very close relative and the numerous hurtful things that have been said against me. While I in no way want to just jump to saying that I was just an innocent victim in all of this, I just know that I have seen a lot of this hurt before, and each time I just stop the hurt before it gets to be too much.

In fact, just recently, a favorite artist of mine, Sam Smith, released a song that deals specifically with this topic. He talks about how he is “too good at goodbyes.” In his song, Smith talks about how he doesn’t get too close to people, even when they mean a lot to him, just in case they “leave [him] in the dirt.” And just like me — who had a person tell me that they thought that I was being cruel and heartless — Smith replies to the individual who thinks he’s being “heartless” and “cold” that he’s just “protecting [his] innocence” and “[his] soul.”

When I listened to Smith’s words, I realized how completely true they are. Just like Smith, I, too, want to be able to be close to people and have meaningful relationships, but am too hesitant about the potential hurt. When that hurt comes, I quickly try to dispel it before I ultimately become too hurt, so like Smith, it’ll lead to fewer tears and, perhaps, the “quicker [those] tears [will] dry.”

So if this person is right, if I am too good at goodbyes, then I don’t ever mean it to hurt the person; I think it’s just me trying to save myself from another heartbreak. Because while I put up a strong exterior, inside I am easily hurt. I think it’s just my heart kicking into a flight response because it doesn’t know if it can handle it; and if I remove myself from the situation sooner rather than later, it allows my heart to take care of damage control quickly.

And I realize that this is no way to live. I shouldn’t be afraid of getting too close to people just because I’m afraid of getting hurt, or letting go of a relationship too quickly because, again, I am afraid of getting hurt. It’s merely the defense mechanism my heart has adopted so it can prevent any hurt.

But I don’t want to be like this. And I know that I will have to try to find a way to reverse this natural response that my heart always turns to. So, to the one who says that I am too good at goodbyes, maybe you are right. Maybe it’s time to change.

Emily Veith
Emily has her bachelor's degree in Political Science, and has always believed in helping and serving others. She wants to make the world a better place, and aspires to be a politician someday to do just that. She is an old soul who loves Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Glenn Miller. When she isn't writing about imperative news- and political-related, she can be found attempting new recipes, playing her guitar or reading a good mystery book.