We are on the eve of something amazing.
I never thought that being on Facebook would lead me to kind of a spiritual hopefulness and a belief in the power of thousands of 'one's' to make change. But, indeed that has happened and it's happened big time.
It started about a week ago when I noticed that a friend of mine had, I thought, created an overview of their year and, again I thought, they posed it on Facebook. I turns out that this is a seasonal Facebook feature. You click one button and Facebook selects from your pictures and your posts to create an overview of the year. You click another button to post it to your page. Instantly, and I really mean instantly, mine was created and posted.
As a result of my work with various self advocacy groups, I have a significant number of self advocates 'friended' on Facebook. It has been with a sense of real awe that I've browsed through their Facebook years. The first I looked at was a young man, (anyone under 40 is young to me) with Down Syndrome from B.C. There were pictures of him hanging with friends, being with a girlfriend, competing and winning medals at a Special Olympics event ... pictures of him living and loving his life. Next up I time traveled through the year of a woman from the UK who had pictures of her marriage, pictures of her laughing with her parents, picture of her at work with co-workers ... pictures of her living and loving life. Then there was the teenager with Down Syndrome from the Australia who's year screamed 'I'm a teen!' ... fashion, and friends, and fun, and school, and dances, and volunteer work. I teared up looking at a fellow from the U.S. who lost his mother, his sadness was palpable, Facebook randomly chose to show the low point of his life, but it was followed by pictures of love and support.
A mere twenty years ago, if Facebook existed then, the pictures, if there were any, would have been very, very different. What I saw, as I browsed this week through the lives of so many with intellectual disabilities, confirmed what we all knew intuitively, community living matters.
While all this might make me grateful for the work done and for the opportunities now available to people with intellectual disabilities to live lives of inclusion and of value in their home communities, what made the difference for me wasn't the pictures of those with disabilities in those year end collages. There was something else.
I looked at the faces of those who were in the pictures with people with disabilities. Their families, their friends, their coworkers ... they were all people who, probably unbeknownst to themselves, who have been changed. Changed by being in the circle, being in the know - that people with disabilities can live and love life. Simply by living their lives well, by living their lives fully, people with disabilities are changing those around them. It's advocacy at it's most profound level. They are reaching into the hearts and souls of those who know and love them and switching on a light. A light that once turned on can never be turned off. They are illuminating the still startling idea that people with intellectual disabilities are fully human and live fully human lives.
Each of these people.
Each one of them.
Is busy changing minds and hearts and souls.
They are building a movement. A movement comprised of those who know the secret - that all means all, that each of us has value, that society benefits from diversity.
We are on the eve of something great.
A movement of those with a light burning bright in their souls and who are not afraid of confronting darkness.