Time : By Jane Parks-McKay
Photo Courtesy of Brenda Anderson
Coming out of some time off after years of teaching, I found myself volunteering for a cable tv show shot out of De Anza College. Called “On the Move” and produced by Able Cable Productions, the show was founded on the principal of “I Can-do” by the disabled community. As an able-bodied person, I was uncomfortable being surrounded by people without legs, without voices, and sometimes without limbs at all. Some had physical disabilities; many I’m sure also had what I came to learn were hidden disablities.
Nevertheless, I assimilated quickly into the cast and crew. Not only did I help host the show but I learned how to edit and quite of the few behind-the-scenes activities that go into producing a show.I also became the show’s Make-Up Artist.
I was riding high until a staff/crew party held in Sunnyvale knocked me off my pedestal: the show’s founder asked to speak with me in a private room; apparently there were a few people who felt that I was treating them differently than able-bodied people. I was mortified but I listened. I learned that night the most important lesson: we are ALL disabled in one way, shape or form. No matter how different someone may look or be, everyone is really equal.
Fast Forward to 2007:
With years of more life behind me and even more lessons, I had just finished a two-year stint caregiving for my husband, who had been injured at work. Life was looking good and we decided to take my car out for a ride. BAM! Sitting at a stoplight waiting for our turn, the driver behind us didn’t see us and plowed into our car at 45 mph.
In a second, my life was no longer what I’d known it to be. I became, at that second, a traumatic brain injury survivor. Of course the “survivor” part didn’t happen for a long time. It was ardous and hard work and many sessions of speech and language therapy, among many other modalities, helped me gain a footstep into life.
In an instant, I became a member of the disabled community. As time has gone by, I have become an advocate for the traumatic brain injury (TBI) community and have served on a state-wide advisory board to raise more awareness.
When people tell me “you don’t look like you have a brain injury”, I take that as an opportunity to dispel the myths that people have toward TBI as well as the disabled, overall. The “can do” attitude that I was so gently taught in the 1980’s has come back time and time again.
I never thought this life would be mine but it has given me much compassion and empathy toward others. I am blessed to have what I have and for what I don’t, I am still blessed for both experiences have taught me so much. And, as I have been taught, others have, as well.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond imagination. It is our light more than our darkness which scares us. We ask ourselves who are we to be brilliant, beautiful, talented, and fabulous.
But honestly, who are you to not be so. You are a child of God, small games do not work in this world. For those around us to feel peace, it is not example to make ourselves small. We were born to express the glory of God that lives in us. It is not in some of us, it is in all of us.”
W.E. B. Dubois, the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University, 1895.