I’ve mentioned it in passing… mostly the goofy stories.
I spent two years on a speaking tour after winning a state pageant.
You know, those glamorous things? (y’all are thinking you’re at the wrong blog, right?)
Except that I was far from poised and usually had a pair of Converse sneakers on underneath those gowns (and as soon as I find that picture, I’ll prove it).
The speaking tour nearly did me in.
But to this day, it may be the one thing that I ever felt unselfish in doing. Not because of any noteworthy oratorical skills. Not because I held anyone’s attention. And not because I threw up before going on stage.
But if it helped prompt one bit of kindness to someone, it was worth it.
In the world of pageants, you must have platform: a topic important to you… and one you can make relevant to others.
And while others had platforms that were easy to envision, easy to measure…
Childhood Cancer Awareness
I found myself drawn to the simple thought that if we all assumed one thing about each other, the world would be a kinder place.
WE ALL HAVE A DISABILITY.
I don’t particularly love that word.
I let it define me for decades – accepting it like I accepted the space between my front teeth and the freckles on my arm.
But in the sense that a disability describes the way we feel about ourselves? About the things we relegate ourselves to failure status over? The things we assume we cannot do, or that everyone else can do better than us? The I Can’ts in our life?
They dis-able us.
How about the things we let get in the way of our grand childhood dreams? The things we dismiss as impossible -
too late, too old, too hard.
Those are dis-abilities.
And worse? Are the scars.
The experiences that paralyze us with fear or warn us from ever trying something bold and scary and powerful and healing. Dis-abilities.
Cruel words that found their way into a place where we watered them and allowed them to continue to speak to us long after the speaker’s footfalls had echoed away. Dis-abilities.
Abandonment or betrayal that dug a moat around emotions that were too wonderful to dare expose to harm again. Dis-abilities.
And somehow we rationalize that the way we speak to ourselves, the way someone else spoke to us, the way someone else treated us, our humble beginning or spectacular fall from grace… are all legitimate reasons to abandon the attempt at an intentional life.
All reasons to feel less than.
It happens everywhere. To everyone.
My guilt prompted this post after the heartbreak of watching a McDonald’s manager loudly berate a mentally-challenged employee while an entire restaurant watched and listened.
I was convicted by my uncertain response when my kindergartener said (so very unquietly, as five-year olds are apt to do),
That lady was MEAN.
She yelled, ‘I TOLD YOU TO SWEEP RIGHT THERE!’
That was mean, Mommy”.
I took the coward’s way out. I went home and wrote a long message on McDonald’s customer service website. They responded with a rote reply that they had notified the branch and were addressing it.
That employee swept the floor and ended her shift with a smile on her face. I admire that kind of resiliency. She knows her self-worth isn’t found in a bully’s words.
It made me wonder just how many times I had been less than kind to someone who had an invisible disability? Because we really truly all do. No one is immune from self-doubt.
That four-year old girl who stands blocking your cart in the middle of the aisle – completely ignoring you as you ask her to move.
Would you have had any idea she’d just turned deaf?
So many of us carry those disabilities on the inside. I am grateful that mine serves to remind me to check my impatience, my pride, my ingratitude.
Be kinder to someone with an invisible disability. You deserve it.