Today is the 7th annual International Day of Acceptance.
It all began in 2007 when Annie Hopkins made the above symbol as a tool for others to embrace diversity, educate society, and empower each other to love life. Annie was a vibrant young woman with spinal muscular atrophy but didn't ever want her disability to limit her. Before her untimely passing in 2009 she was an advocate, entrepreneur, artist, and student, who fully demonstrated what is possible when you love life. You can find out more about her life and the social entrepreneurial experiment she started here.
As I mentioned briefly in a previous post, my beloved mother-in-law Carlota has recently been paralyzed from the waist down for reasons unknown. She is still in the hospital but will soon be released to a rehabilitation centre in the Toronto area to learn how best to manage her life to regain as much independence as possible. Carlota is a feisty 80-year-old woman who until this past fall could be found running a large rice and mango ranch in Peru when not in Canada visiting her 5 children and 13 grandchildren. She had so much energy she unintentionally but honestly made me feel guilty sometimes for not being able to match her in vim and vigour and downright lust for life. Whenever we spoke on the phone she was ALWAYS laughing and overflowing with positivity. Indeed, that spirit remains unbroken and her grit and gumption is a testament to her beautiful soul. During the first few weeks in hospital, when her children were understandably devastated and angry, Carlota looked at her new situation as a challenge and an adventure and urged her family to do the same.
Carlota's first husband and the father of her children died 40 years ago, leaving her a widow with 5 kids age 15 and under (4 of them boys). She found herself in a difficult situation made harder because she spoke broken english and had been living a life of relative luxury prior to her husbands death. She, however, remained undefeated, picked up any jobs she could get and raised those children to all be loving, responsible and successful citizens who love their mother more than anything in the world. She never found any work beneath her saying that "there is no shame in hard work". She has been proof in my life that the power of love is stronger than anything else in the universe. It transcends time and distance and can warm you on the coldest days and give you light and hope in the darkest nights. I have been witness to it over the years, time and time again, and even more so now that her love is coming back to her through her family. Each of her grown children visits her every single day and makes sure she is being taken care of, has her favourite foods, plenty to read and everything she could possibly need to make her hospital stay as painless as possible.
It's all too true that many things in life don't mean that much to the average person until they are directly affected by it. That is true for me and my family now that somebody we love dearly is disabled. We have begun to notice the many obstacles in her way (literally, as many older establishments are not disabled friendly) and emotionally and socially. So, on this day, and every day moving forward I hope to find myself more accepting and benevolent to all the brave and disabled souls in my community.
I hope you will too.
Nobody knows what the future holds for any of us. Let me leave you with the idea that you should embrace what you have for as long as you have it. Run free while your legs are strong. Enjoy yoga while you body is still supple and compliant. Swim. Give big and hearty hugs to those you love. Appreciate the little things because they truly are the big things and never miss an opportunity to