Upon reading the post where I mentioned him, Brent Pease reached out to me. He has a brother with Cerebral Palsy and they are competing in a triathlon together. I love what I see in them. Three brothers who are aware of each others unique abnormalities and lovingly tolerate, support, encourage, help, and cheer each other. I want that to be true of our four sons.
In the email that I sent back to him, I mentioned that the things they are receiving so much positive attention for are probably just natural for them. Imagine a news station doing a full-length story on you for helping your sister move out of her apartment or giving your brother rides to and from work every day because he totaled his car. You would probably find it a little silly because you are just doing what a good brother or sister would do. It’s true, the Pease brothers are simply being great brothers, but the normalcy of their brotherhood is not everyone’s normal.
I consider Jackson, Andrew, and Toby as fortunate souls who will grow up in a different normal. Their normal will make them more compassionate human beings. It’s just true. I am more compassionate today than I ever could have been before I met Caedmon. His Cerebral Palsy forces me to slow down, to put my wants aside, and to love him as I would want to be loved. I don’t have to do that with Jeni or the other boys. With them, I can cheat.
If I am busy, I can tell Jack to go read a book. If Caedmon wants to read a book, he needs me to help. It’s different.
My sons live in a world where creatively including another human being is normal. The thrive in an environment where a person with a disability is a person. Like a child growing up downtown Chicago where Polish, Chinese, African, and Irish immigrants are just Americans; my boys know friends with Autism, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Asperger’s, and Angelman’s Syndrome as normal.
Cultural diversity is a paradox to them because diversity is their culture.
It can be true of you as well. People with disabilities are a forgotten culture. In workplaces and schools that host cultural diversity seminars and tolerance summits, it’s rare to see the disabled Americans included in the conversation. This is why the world needs more hunters.
I want to encourage you to immerse your self in the disabled culture: learn their language and customs, go to where they hang out, play their games, watch their movies… get to know them. You don’t have to like it all. I’m not a fan of French cuisine, European clothing, or Indian music. However, I savor Chinese food, might fancy a kilt if the occasion called for it, and have enjoyed some of Bollywood’s finest. The point is, you can’t appreciate a culture until you experience a culture.
Get in touch with the local Special Olympics group. Volunteer with a hippotherapy program. Participate in an awareness walk. Become a mentor for a child with a disability. There are plenty of cultural experiences out there; one just needs to seek them out. Happy hunting.