|Picture Description: I am on stage, holding a microphone in one hand and a large display cheque in the other|
Last night I had the honour of participating in a cheque presentation ceremony. Last summer we in Ontario undertook a province wide effort to raise money from the Community Living sector for people with intellectual disabilities who had been affected by the fires that raged through Fort McMurray last year. We had contacted Choices, the agency that supports people with intellectual disabilities, and received permission to raise money on their behalf.
Throughout the province people held bar-b-ques, and bake sales, and hosted spaghetti dinners, and sponsored benefit lectures, and sold jewelry and tee shirts. Organizations participated, hospitals participated, self advocate groups participated, it was a joint effort. Money came in. And so did stories. So many stories, of what people did and why they did it. We pulled together for people with disabilities from another province and we pulled together to demonstrate our belief in the concept of 'Community'. In this case, we were supporting the community of people with intellectual disabilities.
I learned several years ago that when tragedies happen, when catastrophe strikes, there is very little reporting on what happens to those of us in the disability community. What happens to those who need support during catastrophic times? It's an important but seldomly asked question. What happened to people with disabilities who were in the towers on 9/11? What happened to people with disabilities when the tsunami struck? What happened to people with disabilities in any part of the world when their world collapses?
We talked about this last night and the term 'shadow community' was used to describe a community that lives in the dusk between the media spotlight and the darkness of death and despair. I thought it an appropriate term. But what also struck me last night was that we as a community, the disabled community, is large, and caring, and compassionate. We don't have to wait for the spotlight to come to us, we can all bring whatever light we have to bear on situations that confront us, all of us, no matter where in the world it happens.
And that's what we did.
It was an honour and a privilege to be asked to participate in the cheque presentation to Allison Pardy the Executive Director of Choices. It was moving to hear her speak about how our efforts in Ontario raised the spirits of people with disabilities in Alberta, "(People with intellectual disabilities) learned that they are not alone," she said.
Because we are community.
Sometimes we speak about 'community' as something to strive for, to work towards, to be deserving of ... but maybe it's time we recognize that we already are a community, and as community we need to support and live with a spirit of generosity within that community even as we strive for our place within that other, larger community.