Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Vocabulary Lesson

I came across an inspiring video today some friends of mine were discussing on facebook. If you click on the link you can watch it - it is a speech given by Aimee Mullins - a record-setting athlete, model and actress who from childhood has been missing both legs from the shin down. She's beautiful, strong, and has wonderful presence in front of an audience, but it was her opening segment that both captivated and shocked me. She begins by saying that she recently realized she had never looked up the term "disabled." She has heard it all her life - and of course it's counterpart "disability" has made it's way into the daily lives myself of many of my fellow SB families. I've never taken offense to the word (though I may have rolled my eyes and thought "not really" when faced with that terminology in relation to my son) never taken offense that is... until I heard this woman read what a thesaurus had to say about the word "disabled" and only then did I truly feel the a catch in my throat and a my eyes start to burn. Here it is:


Main Entry:
disabled
Part of Speech:adjective
Definition:incapacitated
Synonyms:broken-down, confined, decrepit, disarmed, handicapped, helpless, lame hurt,incapable, infirm, laid-up, maimed, out-of-action, out-of-commission, paralyzed,powerless, run-down, sidelined, stalled, weakened, worn-out, wounded, wrecked
Antonyms:able, healthy

Can you imagine. Did you have any idea? The thing that got me the most were the antonyms - the things "disabled" is not - "able" and "healthy". I look at my son, I look at Aimee Mullins, I look at the beautiful faces of all the babies I've met with SB, down-sydrome, cystic fibrosis, and numerous other "disabilities" and though I know (like me) their parents don't see them AT ALL as "disabled" - the word is still thrown out there sometimes. And I think "Are they not ABLE?! Are they not STRONG!? are they not POWERFUL?!" You would never see their faces, and all they have done at so young an age, and all the lives they have touched since their birth, and think they were anything but amazing, empowering miracles. I was awakened by this discovery, stunned by it's implications, angered by it's misrepresentation, and saddened by it's insensitivity when I realized something...it's not the definition of "disabled" that limits our children - it's the word choice. We're simply using the wrong word. And now that I know the weight of the word "disabled" I am certain it will never be used in my presence to describe a child or any person for that matter - for there is no one out there (however suffering or challenged) who is not capable of greatness, who is not powerful beyond their disease or diagnosis, who is not able to change lives, touch hearts, heal souls, and give strength. And if you are ABLE do all this...no one... no one... can call you otherwise.

And to borrow a favorite phrase from a new friend and her blog...

13 comments:

Kelly said...

very good entry, great video!

Cassie said...

Wow, I had no idea. I'm not a fan of "disabled" and many other words/phrases used to describe out kids. If you don't mind I think I will make a somewhat similar post on my blog. Maybe we can do a little educating!

Leigh and Andy said...

I just saw that video too, and am still in shock. Such a great post about who are kids are and WHAT THEY CAN DO!!! Love the post and love you for writing it!! :)

Scasmflops said...

Wow!! Love it!!! You go get em, girl!! I'm ready to go to war on that one now! :) Thank you for this post! I love you too!

Chris, Liz, and Baby Em said...

What an inspiring post...these are some of the most powerful, enduring, strongest people ever. The word 'disabled' discredits all they are. I would never think of them as powerless, wrecked, helpless, or any of those other words. Yet, using the word 'disabled' is doing just that. Makes me want to start a crusade to end the using the word 'disabled'.

Stephanie said...

Fantastic post! I like Cassie's idea of doing a little educating and I am WAY overdue for a blog post. Hope you don't mind if I pass the message along!

Summers Family said...

YOU are a Rock Star!! I love this post and all of the passion and love you put into it. I was shocked when I saw the video and wanted to do a post as well. I took the cheater way and posted it on Thanks Facebook :-0 Thank you for helping to educate others about all the amazing things our children can do. Hope you guys are do well!

Nicole

Guess Family said...

awesome post, Jo! I hate that word too!!!!

Lindsay said...

Great post!!! I found little Nella's story, and I love that blog too!

Jodi said...

Fabulous post! As a fellow SB mom to a PRECIOUS Rockstar, I must thank you for that post! I never really thought about that word that way, but I am joining you! :) My Brooklyn is in NO WAY "powerless"....

Thanks for that post, and have a BLESSED day!

Papi said...

A beautiful, passionate post. Thank you Josie for your wonderful words and insight. Jet, and all his friends you show and mention here, are little inspirations and sources of great strength. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Selina said...

SO GREAT!!!! I love it! Thank you SO much for posting this and for putting that word to bed once and for all.

Phil 4:13 "I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me"

Amanda said...

You are awesome! I love your posts - your powerful words and beautiful pictures! What a special family your handsome Jet has been sent to! And our babies are powerful, amazing rockstars!

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