“You are braver than you believe”

Every one of us needs that voice of encouragement that propels us forward.  Like Christopher Robin to his beloved Winnie the Pooh; one which says “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  No matter what our place in life is, no matter where we live in this big and beautiful world, no matter what challenges and disabilities we face, no matter whether our home is in Beautiful B.C. Canada or tied up in a crib at an institution hidden away in the countryside…we all deserve that voice.  It may come from a loved one or friend, it may come from a stranger, it may come from inside when there is no one there…but, oh please, may it come.

Yesterday as a family we followed the sounds of a lovely creek, walking up the side of a gorgeous meadow in the beautiful Fraser Valley.  We looked down to the bottom of a creek bed at the rushing stream below.  Rocks and boulders lined the side of the creek bed, making the descent a bit of an adventure.

Cody was with us.  He sat at the top of the meadow on a rock, listening to the creek below.  Then came the voice… “Cody, do you want to climb down the rocks so you can feel the cool stream on your fingertips?  You can do it, I’ll help you…every step of the way.”

In silence and stillness Cody sat on that rock, considering, pondering, for many moments.  What does this mean, he must have wondered? Climbing down rocks?  Are they like the small rocks I sometimes hold in my hand, or are they like this large rock I am sitting on?  Can I do it?

As we all stood waiting for his response, all of a sudden Cody stood up, reaching to the hand held out to him, and followed that voice.

Down he went, rock by rock.  Following directions intently, so focused as he alternated between crouching then sitting on a rock, reaching out with hands and feet to locate the next one, and standing up while holding hands with his guide, only to repeat the process.  Slowly but with concentration and determination, Cody made his way down to the creek.

He stood on the water’s edge, he jumped several times for joy, he smiled in pride and he reached down to feel the rushing cool waters on his fingertips.

The sides of the creek bed may be steep, the rocks likely unstable, the way may be dark…but the water is clear and cool and the voice is strong.  Can you hear it?  “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

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On his way down

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Enjoying the creek

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On his way back up

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Almost to the top!

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I’m a rock climber!

 

LUMOS – J.K. Rowling lights a candle in the dark

J.K. Rowling, popular author of the Harry Potter series was deeply impacted after reading an article in 2004 describing children in institutions being in caged beds.  She knew she had to act and became founder and president of Lumos who “works to help the millions of children in institutions regain the right to a family” (See website here)

Their new short film, “Behind the Walls”, offers a compelling look into this disturbing issue affecting over 8 million children institutionalized: watch Behind The Walls

Read some of the following film’s script as a former resident reveals the horrors within:

“They tied this one girl up for 15 years, to protect her from herself, they said.  Because she hit herself.  And fed her with a bottle, until she knew no other. But maybe, I thought, she hit herself because they tied her up.”

“The babies come and they cry, for a few days…and then, they learn…that this is a silent place, with no complaints.”

“He was a longed for, first-born son.  They were told he wouldn’t live long, would never talk.  You could tell from their faces, they didn’t want to give him up.  He has a defect, they were told, How could you ever cope?  So they gave my young friend, Peter, up.  He remembers their faces, voices, or at least that’s what he says.  Peter gets a few letters, one of the lucky children here.  Letters full of love, and regret which speak of his family’s problems, of their poverty and desperation.  Few of us are really orphans.”

“The staff were as strapped as we were.  They didn’t know how to help, they were just too busy.”

Lumos highlights some facts about children with disabilities:

  • Children with disabilities are 6 times more likely than their peers to be placed in institutional care

Outcomes for children with disabilities in institutions are much graver than their peers:

  • those under 3 are 100 times more likely to die in institutions, with the remaining being institutionalized for life
  • research in one institution found that of all children institutionalized while young, none were returned to family; 22% moved on to an adult institution, 78% died in the institution

With the passion of J.K. Rowling leading the way, Lumos continues to take solid steps forward towards solutions*:

  • advocating internationally to divert funding directed to institutions instead to supporting families and creating inclusive programs within communities
  • supporting national governments in creating legislation, changing attitude and increasing funding towards protecting the rights of children and moving them from institutional to community based care
  • assisting and strengthening health, education and social services at a local level to discourage the need for institutionalization
  • working alongside NGO’s locally to advocate and bring awareness for children’s rights
  • working within institutions to ensure children’s rights, health, development and protection
  • supporting families directly to find support, education, and resources so they can keep their children with disabilities at home
  • working with children in institutions directly, teaching them to be self advocates, providing resources and planning to enable their departure from the institution

When J.K. Rowling read that article back in 2004, she said:

“I looked at that photograph of the boy in his cage bed and felt he has absolutely no voice. This touched me as nothing else has because I can think of nobody more powerless than a child, perhaps with a mental or a physical disability, locked away from their family. It was a very shocking realization to me and that’s where the whole thing started”.

She saw, she allowed herself to feel, she became a voice for the voiceless and lit a candle in the dark.

 

*Lumos “Seven levels of engagement”

Mother’s Day gift

Awakened on Mother’s Day morning by the frustrated cries of a boy who cannot speak or see,

Resurrects in me a sadness, an impotence, a yearning.

 

Observing the stares as we make our way around the playground,

Reviving in me a familiar frustration, fatigue, dejection.

 

Sitting with family on Mother’s Day afternoon while my son cries in his room,

Stirring in me a questioning, a waiting, a hoping.

 

Juggling with my thoughts in the dark of night,

Resuming a well known battle of feelings inside.

 

Then comes my salvation,

Mercifully, as it always does.

It shakes me and re-directs my thoughts…

Perspective.

Like a faithful teacher, once again.

It alters my thinking and breaks open my heart…

Perspective.

The birthplace of Gratitude,

The cradle of Compassion,

The doorway to Action.

Perspective.

 

Tonight, it whispers in my ear…

“What is mother’s day like for them?

Left and forgotten, tied within and without.

What is mother’s day like for them?

A Mother’s day in a motherless place.”

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boy in a bed

I saw this picture online of a boy in a bed, 15 years old but appearing much younger, lying face down with arms at his side.  He laid immobile on a sheet, no pillow or blanket.  There were no restraints on him to keep him from moving off the bed, but there he lay, and had laid for the last 8 years, as described the caption.

With the exception of being taken to be washed, the bed was his home.  There are no restraints needed when muscles have atrophied and the will to live is dying. He lives in an institution for the disabled, I’m not sure what his special needs are, but I know that his life was meant for so much more.  This boy in a bed has been burned into my memory and seared into my heart.

When I greet my Cody in the morning with a kiss and a warm “Good morning sweetheart”, I wonder if he also receives a greeting of love.

When I give Cody a fresh breakfast at the family kitchen table, I imagine what his first meal is like.

While I help Cody learn to dress himself, give him a high 5 when he manages the shirt all on his own, I wonder if this boy has known the pride of achieving a goal.

When Cody and I stand at the end of our driveway waiting for the school bus, I wonder if this boy knows the feel of the fresh morning air, the chill that lingers from nighttime, the peace that comes from hearing the birds call.

When I meet with his teachers, make plans for learning goals, advocate and research tools to help Cody learn, I wonder if anyone sees his potential and teaches him.

When Cody and I jump on the trampoline, his smiles and giggles filling the air, I wonder if ever this boy has jumped or felt the rush of motion as his body moves in the air.

When I love Cody with my heart and soul, I wonder if anyone loves him.

I do.

If only I could reach across the miles….

“Good morning lovely boy”, I would say.  “Come!  Time to get up off your bed and live this day together.  You have so much to give, so much to learn.”