Tag Archives: contribution

Disability Empowers Creative Contributions

The thought that a Disability might empower your creative contributions might seem like a paradox. Yet for most of us the things that we struggled with lead to our biggest contributions.

Disability can be Your Muse

Muses lead us to create. Disability leads many of us to ask questions others have yet to ponder. Because we ask them much earlier and often feel alone in our questioning, we are more inclined to share our answers.

When we look ahead to our elders we see their abilities waning for us. When a disability hits we find ourselves with lessened abilities and are inspired to act like our elders.

We are guided by them to try to adapt and compensate. These efforts lead us to develop new skills. Skills which we can share with others.

If you pause for a second you can name someone in the middle of any creative endeavor that struggled with a disability. When we read or hear someone’s story we often find that their disability served as their Muse. The passion of Vincent Van Goh emerged from his depression. He felt it so intensely that it came out in his art.

Many musicians struggle in some way and that leads to their passion. Think of Stevie Wonder and his music.

In fact, playing a musical instrument helps to overcome dyslexia. Part of the problem that leads to dyslexia is the unbalanced communication between the right and left sides of the brain. The discipline of coordinating the right and left sides of the body forces better communication between the right and Left sides of the brain.

The obvious struggle of reading and writing also helps. Many writers struggle with dyslexia. The effort to master the written word made them better able to express themselves. Steven King explores a deep and terrifying world. Agatha Christi wrote about the twists and turns of human passions that lead to murder.

Why is disability a Muse?

Disability makes us stop and look at ourselves more deeply. Sport coaches are rarely the top performers. Rather the coaches are the ones who have to figure out how to perform better, just to stay in the game. They also can support athletes and other coaches who are tempted to quit. The coach learned to turn a failure into a “Learning Experience.” The star athletes rarely taste failure or have to change their natural ways.

Failure and despair come to all of us. Those of us who face our disabilities experience more of this than most. To survive we must create new ways to cope and express our creativity.

Louis Braille took his need to communicate without sight and created a way for Napoleon‘s soldiers to communicate at night. The soldiers no longer needed to give away their location by shining a light to read their messages. Thus he contributed from his experience of disability to support others.

Disability also forces us to look at life differently. As we age our abilities change. A disability changes our abilities sooner and often more dramatically than our peers. This can lead us to refuse to accept our limitations.

With the need for wider doors, wheelchair users have opened spaces for all of us.

As disabled persons seek to remain part of the community they force other changes. Using Wheelchairs forced bus designers to find better ways to get on and off the busses. Now many busses are lower and need no steps. Parents can get strollers on and off. Kids no longer have to step so high. And shoppers can roll their carts on and off the bus with ease.

We write about our pain. There are many works including a book of the Bible called Lamentations and many Psalms that express the language of disability.

For many questions arise. Why did this happen to me? What is the meaning of suffering? And these questions were the source of the Old Testament book of Job.

At first our questions cause us to turn to others including our elders and then to reflect on the spiritual. Like Job, we argue with our peers and then with God. Some of us will reject God and others of us will find solace in God’s answers.

Many of us have found a loving God. The view of an angry and vengeful God made us feel guilty. We looked anew at the texts and found other ways to understand our relationship with God. The message of a Loving God now dominates mainstream Protestantism.

Unlike our elders, we expect to live many more years. We often use Disability as a springboard to thrive. Many motivational speakers point to an illness or other disabling event that lead them to their insights. The insights they now share with others.

Previously, I mentioned Brendon Burchard. He tells of an auto crash at age 19. He realized that he could have died without really living. In that moment he found the three truths that he now shares, to have fully loved, to have lived fully, and to have found meaning in life.

How has disability forced you to create and contribute?

As All Ways, Seek Joy

How to really Matter

When you are asked, “do you matter?” What do you say? I mean what you really think in your heart. For most of us especially after a disability we might think we don’t matter. That is the way much of society treats us. We are redundant. No one wants to work with us and help us contribute to the group.

Those who are too slow soon get left behind. Not just on the metaphoric journey thru life, but also in school and elsewhere. In school we followed the successes of the stars. They were our heroes, the ones who got to do the special things. We read about them in the school news. Everyone knew who they were.

As adults we hear about those people with exceptional abilities. We elect the best politician into office. We promote the best candidate for the job. Then we fire the ones who struggle to keep up. They are soon gone and forgotten from the team.

When you find you are the one who got cut out what do you do?

You have just been told you don’t matter. Do you take that on as your new identity?

It is so easy to think we don’t matter anymore and get depressed. Depression serves only to separate you further from the pack. Until you realize that you need to find a new way of thinking about yourself and take charge you will always wonder if you will ever find yourself in a pack again.

In order to matter, you need to understand how you fit in, so ask yourself:

  • How have you contributed to the lives of your family members?
  • How have you contributed to your friends?
  • How have you contributed at work?
  • How have you contributed to your community?
  • What have you created and given to the world?

Many of us will notice that we have fallen short of what we wished. Now how can we activate our drive to matter to the world?

First, give of your best in all that you do. Strive to do your best and when you fall short let yourself learn from the experience.

Last evening I was with some friends and one woman suddenly started putting down what I was saying. I persisted in trying to make my point. Later I realized that she had a story she needed to share. While I don’t think that would have been the best place to share her story, I do not know for sure. I think we could have addressed it. The next time I get an opportunity, I will try to hear others stories when they interrupt me.

Next, seek out opportunities to contribute. Where might your gifts and abilities benefit others? This need not be in formal volunteer settings. You can contribute by holding open a door and smiling at the people you meet on the street. Yes, even such a simple act as smiling at strangers matters. Does seeing happy people make you feel better?

There are guidelines you can use to evaluate your experiences so you can recognize those opportunities which confirm that you matter.

  • What are your abilities?
  • How do they benefit others?
  • How do you see the benefit?
  • What new opportunities are coming your way? Yes, the world is always offering you things. You need to recognize and accept what is offered.

Third, how can you help others to live better? This may be just calling someone who is suffering and showing them you care. When you were sick and others contacted you did that make your day? You can make someone else’s day and say Hi.

What have you contributed that mattered to the world?

What new opportunities do you notice coming your way to be someone who matters?

What steps will you take to become someone who matters?

Remember when you matter you feel better.

As all Ways, Seek Joy,

PS, this is the thirteenth in the blog series on making a Disability your life’s biggest gift. They are inspired by Brendon Burchard’s book, The Charge