I spoke to a group of almost 600 students and then later an open house of 200 adults in Westport, Co. Mayo.
We each brought our unique vantage point to raise the issue of equality and diversity in our community and it was an honour to be asked to represent the disabled community.
Misfortune, hardship, illness etc and so on doesn’t smite just the strong willed of the human race. And yet a significant amount of us go on with life eventually. The alternative to taking action is simply unacceptable. Things do get easier but you need to keep the right outlook. This won’t happen over-night but the truth is you just keep going. You put your head down, grit your teeth and weather the storm that has thrown you off your once clearer path in life. You learn to cope as best you can, to keep going and keep doing what you can do -to find heart and drive to overcome personal problems and still find it in yourself to try to help others. As humans we take strength from each other’s strengths to face anything life throws at us, that deep inside we all have the courage and determination.
A lot of people view acceptance as a form of weakness. They think that, if they accept what’s happened to them, they’ll be admitting defeat. But it’s the opposite. The cold hard fact is that bad things happen to good people every day of the week. It’s only by acknowledging reality you can challenge the fear inside and then you can create a plan to move forward. Acceptance, as it turns out, is the first step to overcoming the fear that is holding you prisoner from moving forward with your life. I don’t fear the imaginary as I know now that I will cope with things as they present themselves.
Despite all this you still have the choice how to respond to the pain and to keep the right mindset. Easier said than done but if you respond to pain the wrong way, it makes you weaker, not stronger. In order to keep the right mindset, you need to change your perspective and most importantly surround yourself with the people who care about you the most until you reach some equilibrium of normality and only then will you accept yourself for the wonderful person you truly are. Then you will stop noticing the stares and the nagging little voice from deep within filling your mind full of self-doubt and fears. Don’t compare yourself to somebody else. Remember who you are. When we compare ourselves to others and their achievements we self-hate. We are all unique, we all have a different path in life. Keep your identity and dignity. Don’t compromise this for anyone.
Asking questions, seeing beyond appearances and discovering about the differences that make up the people in our world is essential. Providing education is a really important step in redefining the mould and breaking the incapable, ignorant stereotypes and promoting positive attitudes.