January 1, 2020
The final chapter for this past year, one so horrific that it is deserving of new adjectives, has reached it’s unresolved conclusion. A year of trauma, distancing, fear, illness and death; a year like no other we have ever endured. For those of us who have survived, we bear the scars, small and large, of this slashing knife. From simple inconveniences on up to the passing of our loved ones, we have all taken hits.
The beginning of the new year doesn’t promise much hope of relief from Covid-19. It seems we’ll have to wait for that. In fact, the start of 2021 offers the possibility of having the ignominious black stained distinction of hosting the worst of surges yet to come. And so we must persevere. Yet, as the death toll rises above 340,000 souls, we have not universally come together.
I have often wondered, but never more so than during this disturbingly divided time in our country (one that has some among us approaching this pandemic with, perhaps, less regard for the greater good of everyone), why we, as communal beings, have tended toward the destructive tendencies in us? Why have we not come together in unison to quell this beast of
a virus? What is missing and what are our priorities? And, most curious to me is, to whom do we look for the inspiration to awaken the better angels in all of us?
The behaviors, thoughts and actions that consistently surface and possess a greater influence over how woman and man-kind exist, tend, in my opinion, to be those that diminish us as a species. Those seeking self recognition, wealth and improved status at the cost of others by way of hatred, bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism and privilege exist in bold print. The news is filled with examples, 24/7. The attempts to promote goodness, kindness, love for our neighbors, compassion, sacrifice, selflessness, etc., historically pale in the shadow of societies darker proclivities. Why? Why do we seem to default to the negative instead of the positive? Why this drive to outdo others instead of wanting prosperity, health and happiness for all?
I am very aware of, grateful for and admire the efforts by an enormous number of people who live their lives more positively and work, everyday, to spread that to others. But their influence, I feel, is quelled in it’s effort to overcome the cold wave of cynicism, which appears to hold the upper hand.
Maybe we need to reconsider who we choose to look to, learn from and follow. I propose a group of people that are overlooked because society deems them different. I proclaim that some of the greatest human beings that I have ever met, inhabit the community of those with special needs. Over my 32+ years of working within this community I have taught, laughed with, partied with and learned from some of the most honest, pure of heart, compassionate and loving humans actors. So, who better to symbolize the urgency of the moment we live in? Who better to model how to treat others?
These individuals cope with their own life limiting situations everyday. The rest of us have had our lives limited and interrupted by Covid, and it has been exhausting. But try and imagine this situation as permanent and then you may gain some perspective and a slight insight into what life for a disabled person might be like. Our burden will end one day. Theirs won’t.
Yet, somehow, if they are physically able, these people smile through it all. And if they can’t smile outwardly, then they find their way to communicate an inner smile.
You will not find people who live more honestly because they are living in the moment (intended or not) with their true feelings laid out for all to see. Have you ever seen a disabled child celebrate an accomplishment that we take for granted? The pure joy is infectious! There is no hesitation or self consciousness. To be witness to it is elevating😊
I am realistic knowing that smiles in this community are not constant and trials are not without tears and upset. I am not speaking about the challenges specifically. Life for all of us holds its challenges, COVID or not. Few escape unfettered by the downsides of life. What I am talking about is how we rise above these negatives by living on higher moral and ethical ground with our neighbors, acknowledging that we are one people and that no one is more deserving than anyone else.
Perhaps this pandemic offers us the opportunity to eradicate the construct of a divided people. Perhaps we are at a flex point where recognition of the stark stains of inequality, judgement and pitting brother and sister against one another (that have been exposed so rawly during this unprecedented time), offers a clean canvas with fresh paint to recreate a better, kinder world. I suggest we begin to look elsewhere for our influencers; for examples of how to be better people. And I say look no further than those individuals with special needs. They provide a treasure trove of positive examples, life lessons of gratitude, selflessness, community and more. Let’s mindfully reflect and ask ourselves what we can do.
*You can start with a kind act. Try paying it forward. Perhaps pay for the coffee of the person behind you in Starbucks. Or wear a mask that says, “Be Kind.” You’d be amazed how many people respond to it. And you will be adding to a movement that might someday become a way of life for the majority of the people.
Peace and Keep On Rising!
Happy New Year