This I Believe

Kathleen - Sheridan, Indiana
Entered on August 29, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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I believe in ability

I believe in ability. Physical ability, mental ability, social ability. I see ability every day in my life but most people wouldn’t believe that when I tell them what I do for a living.

I am a professor and teach students about people who are disabled. Rather, I teach what society views as disability. I teach what we classify as different. The elements that make people sub-average. The irony in my teaching is that my focus is on disability but in the realm of physical activity; how to work with those who are disabled in the world of physical activity and sport. Imagine, talking about disability in our culture of super-star athletes, mega fitness, and constant view of action and motion.

I faced the strong definition of normality growing up. My sister Susan is labeled mentally disabled, or retarded as some refer. I hate the word retarded. I hear it and cringe as I think of what people think of my sister. You see, my sister is neither disabled nor retarded. She witty, kind, stubborn, funny, and bossy. She is my sister. I love her all the time, dislike her behavior sometimes, and admire her overwhelming sense of being. Susan, more than anyone than I know, has a tremendous sense of being. She knows who she is and what she wants. She doesn’t bow to the precarious nature of status or fashion. She likes you if you like her, not on the basis of race, color, gender, or status. She is the defining concept of true. Susan helped me understand ability. If you look at her, you can easily see what she cannot do but if you look beyond the obvious (what we call disability), you see of all she is capable, love, compassion, humor, and sensibility. I know many whom we consider normal who could never be all that Susan is.

I believe my sister was a gift to help me understand ability; my ability as well as others. I have learned through Susan to be more honest, more open to feeling, and less pressured by what others think. I believe that when you look at what people can do rather than what they can’t you don’t recognize disability. You see a person rather than what they won’t contribute. You see what makes a person an individual rather than what makes them a burden. You understand their gifts rather than reflect on their faults. Looking beyond the obvious takes courage and strength. I believe when you look at a persons’ ability, you take a step to pursue familiarity and similarity in those who obviously look different. I believe it is an important message to share with my students. It is the gift my sister with her so-called disability gave to me.