This week's post is a little early because I'm honored to be one of over 1200 bloggers contributing to the 1000 Voices for Compassion campaign. Please take some time out of your day to read a few of these marvelous pieces and share copiously using the hashtag #1000Voices
I can't change the world. But I can change my world.
Compassion is like a pebble thrown into a pond. creates movement in ever expanding circles. It is a force that cannot be ignored, even as the pebble sinks out of sight. Compassion is not pity. Pity is a passing, passive thought that keeps us at arm's length. Compassion compels us to act, so we are no longer apart from, but instead are a part of, what goes on around us.
You may wonder what a fashion and style blog has to do with compassion. After all, these things are often thought of as frivolous and superficial and having nothing to do with any deeper context. But I have a unique point of view that is accompanied by an unconventional opinion about fashion and style as it relates to people with disabilities. Namely, that we are entitled to both, even though they may be harder for us to come by. I believe that fashion and style can not only change the way society views a person with a disability. It can also change the way they esteem themselves.
If you are well-acquainted with a person who has a disability then you know the challenges they face on a myriad of different levels. If you're not, I won't speak for the disabled in an effort to get you to understand. Instead, I'll speak for myself and my own circumstances.
I was born with Cerebral Palsy, which is a fancy umbrella-term for irreversible brain damage most often sustained during birth. There are no two people with CP who exhibit the same symptoms in an identical manner. In this respect we are like little snowflakes; unique but equally beautiful.
When you see me out and about in my electric wheelchair or behind my walker you'll notice that I have a hard time keeping still because my extremities are most comfortable when drawn in, much like the fetal position. My fine motor skills are affected so it's very difficult to perform small movements such as buttoning a shirt or typing. My hands twitch and so does my face - this can make posing for and getting great photographs a challenge. I never seem relaxed, yet I look quasi-inebriated at the same time.
Nobody sees the amount of effort it takes for me to perform the simplest of tasks. Nobody knows that my daily routine includes walking, Yoga and healthy eating in order to try to keep my condition from worsening as I age. But there is one thing everybody sees; me. I cannot be invisible. I don't have the luxury of fading into the background or going incognito.
Like it or not - politically correct, "disability acceptable" language aside - I'm going to be judged based on my disability and the way I present myself. There's also a good chance that judgement may be applied to others with disabilities that look similar to my own. Instead of seeing this as a burden I view it as an opportunity. An opportunity to shatter the stereotype that people with disabilities have no voice or place in society. Using fashion as a non-verbal message that I am approachable and self-confident has yielded overwhelmingly positive interactions with others, both disabled and able-bodied. It is an emphatic punctuation mark that says, "I am here to claim my place in society."
My place, it turns out, includes being in the company of wonderful, fashion-forward fashionistas, many of them as passionate about the notion that fashion is for everyone as I am I also do everything I can when I network with people, organizations, and venues to help make my city of Nashville, Tn, more accessible on every level to anyone that is "different".
I am a pebble in the pond. Are you?