Do You See Us?

For Blog

March is Intellectual and Developmental Disability awareness month and I had the good fortune to go to a film festival graciously hosted by Stargazers Theater, to watch some short clips made by, and starring I/DD people.

What struck me the most, was that all the short clips focused on one or several things that made each I/DD person just like us. In fact, halfway through, I was not seeing the disabilities, but all the similarities that we face as a people. Things, hopes and dreams that we could all relate to. None of us like being labeled and put into a box; whether we are being labeled as conservative, liberal, black, white, etc. Yet the disabled are labeled constantly, even if it is an unconscious labeling. Because of their limitations in areas that others perceive to be normal function, they are often overlooked for the brilliance and talent that they have within them in other areas that we may not be so familiar with.

I think about all the people that I know, and I would say that we all have some dysfunction on one level or another. I know many dyslexic people that may not be great at reading or spelling but have great careers in honoring their own strengths. I can be a bit OCD doing daily tasks, which can drive me and perhaps others, crazy. We are not all good at the same things and I think that there is a reason for that. We can learn from one another, and teach one another. When we learn from someone that we cannot understand in the more typical way, such as many I/DD persons; we are moved to open our heart space, as that space is the easiest area to access a new learning, and also the space in which the I/DD person lives from. We can teach each other tolerance of our own inadequacies.

My two sons had IEPs in school, which meant that they had an Individualized Education Program, IEP’s go hand in hand with being I/DD. Both had a form of ADHD. My oldest son struggled the most, and even with the IEP, he struggled with grades and found it too overwhelming to finish high school. They had him on meds to help, but the meds caused another stress factor for him. It was not easy getting to the nurses office to get the meds and make it to his class on time. He was ridiculed and made to feel less than; it was too much for him to stay in the school system and he quit in his mid-junior year. He had always been a great artist, and writer, although he could not spell and do grammar, his content always amazed anyone that took the time to hear him. Another talent is that he can remember every movie that he has ever watched; knows all the actors and how they play their roles. I cannot remember a movie well unless I have seen it several times and it is one of my favorites. Now in his thirties, he still struggles to fit in society, with societies’ views on what success is, but he is still brilliant at those artistic things. He has recently joined a local theater group and has hopes to write a screenplay. This has been a great move for him, as he is seen as the artist that he is, but he still has to unravel what society has categorized him in his own head. You start believing the talk. It takes some courage and effort to walk the walk through the old talk and feelings of being less than. There are many others with this struggle, and worse.

March is awareness month, but I wonder what the awareness really is. Is it the awareness that many people in our society have disabilities? Is it the awareness that they are also capable of doing many great things within society? Or is it more for us, normal folk; awareness of how we think about people with disabilities, or awareness of how we act around people with disabilities. Do we see them for the people that they are? In looking at these questions, I have to admit that I have felt a level of discomfort around some people with disabilities. I have to wonder why. Guilt feels like a likely answer; guilt that I do not share their struggle, even though I have struggles of my own. Fear also shows up; fear of what? Fear of the unknown? Lack of understanding them on my part, and fearing that I am not as authentic as they are? Interestingly, I have not really seen these people and have turned a blind eye to them due to my own insecurities, not for any lack in what they have to offer.

Part of the film festivals agenda was to also rid the world of labeling people with the R word. When I was in grade school, the kids would poke fun and call one another retarded if they did not know the answer to the teachers question. It amazes me that in this day and age, we have not grown beyond our actions of childhood. Calling someone retarded is hurtful and ignorant and it still has to be addressed to our society. Well, I have another R word for you. Restricted. Labeling people comes from a restricted way of thinking. Restricting your thinking is the same as shutting your heart as if your arteries had closed down; no opening or nourishment to allow an active life force to continue spreading. Restrictive thinking does not allow any room for the heart felt experiences or healing. I hope and wish that both R words could be eliminated and that we could all find the comfort and support in one another, as it was meant to be.

Do you see us? All of us, seeing each other perfectly in our imperfections. Seeing inside our own selves to see what needs to be adjusted. Opening the blinds in our hearts and letting empathy, charity and understanding sink in. My strength can support your weakness and my weakness can be supported by your strength. Do you see us as a whole society or are we doomed by a world of yet another separation?

 

Advertisements

Can Meat Eaters and Plant Eaters Be Friends?

IMG_20140715_152753671_smIn my first post, Out With the Old, In With the New, I mentioned how working with animals daily had led to me finding a more open heart. It had always been easy to find an open heart concerning animals, but I was surprised to find that my heart was also opening to people. Even people that do not share my passions or beliefs. The nameless numbers of people I had never given half a thought to; people that I would have just dismissed, ignored or even feared. And now, I am seeing more likenesses than not; whether we share the same beliefs or passions, we are all integral to each others’ being and to each others’ journey together.

I have joined numerous Facebook groups in order to connect with people that share my passions and beliefs. To name a few: animal welfare, dog and horse rescues, breed specific groups, motivation/inspiration groups, vegetarian/vegan recipes, and a vegan humor page. One thing that stands out in all of the groups is the conflict that goes on within each group. People have different opinions even though they share the same passions. I understand that. But what I did not expect, was to see the anger, and almost brutality in comments on the vegan humor page. And this is where my topic comes into play.

I am not vegan, but had hopes to turn in my vegetarian hat to become more vegan-like one day; to be totally free of consuming any animal products. And it is not as easy as it may sound. Making the decision would be easy, in comparison. Just pick up anything in the grocery store and look at the ingredients and you will know what I am talking about.

It would seem to me that almost every vegetarian or vegan person originated from being a meat eater. Meaning we all shared the same thoughts as a meat eater and probably the same passion for the same recipes. Then something inside shifted for some of us, we could no longer partake in the eating of meat. All of the vegetarians or vegans I have known, or known of, have become so for ethical or moral reasons concerning the animals involved; not so much for health reasons, although that would be a compelling reason to become one as well. Lots of documented, scientific research to support that. But that is another subject all together, perhaps for another time.

For me, my plant eating days started shortly after finishing my first Reiki Master/Teacher course; it was a spiritual awakening that I had been waiting for, although I did not know it at the time. I would mourn for the giraffes, elephants and big cats that had been shot for fun by tourist hunters that I saw posted on Facebook, and my heart sank when I saw the groups of cattle in the back field of my house being rounded up and put on the big one way semi-truck, but yet I could sit idly by and much on my burger. But no more; I could now see that I had been suffering from speciesism, a close relative of racism, but in the animal world. I would never had entertained the thought of eating a cat, dog or horse, as that would have been revolting.  I can only imagine the outrage that would have occurred over that; another Facebook group would be up, only this time, against me. Now I can see that the cow could easily be the horse, the pig could be the dog and the chicken could be the cat. All species were the same. The meat was no longer just a package in the store that I could conveniently pick up; it now had a face with meaning. Finally my actions were aligned with my spirit.

Then take into consideration, the Groups that were started to educate and support that cause. I like people that are passionate about their cause, but some of their comments scare me. Perhaps not scared by the comments, as everyone has a right to voice their own opinions, especially in a public forum; it was the judgement in the comments. Seeing people so invested in being sweet and responsible to the animals could certainly be quite brutal to each other. We pick between ourselves who is the better person, has the best religion, politics, by the way we eat, and the list goes on, even within the groups we support. This system of judgment is a heart closer. It is no wonder that we have trouble being compassionate about the ones that do not share our views. But that does not mean that we should not try.

One mans’ journey is not any better or more important than that of another. We all learn and evolve in our own time through our own experiences.   We can have empathy for each other, as we all have a different path to walk and be happy when we are able to make changes that are good for us as well as being happy for those making their own changes. I say that the meat eater and the plant eater should be friends, we are all in this together.