Perhaps, if you are able-bodied, it’s hard to understand what the Paralympics means to people living with a disability.
Indeed, it’s even taken me awhile to get it, despite being born with a disability. After all, I’m a wordsmith and my training’s been in my head, not up and down a pool or athletics track.
However, through watching the Paralympics in Rio, I’ve gained a much deeper understanding of what the Paralympics mans to people living with a disability, especially those with a passion for sport. As I have recently discovered through dance, just because your body struggles to do something physical, it doesn’t mean your heart and mind aren’t passionate about it. That you’re not a sports person. Rather, there are so many ways people living with numerous disabilities can get into sport and turn that sport into a career. We might just need to look a bit harder to find our thing and find a way to pull it off.
This story has been repeated so many times throughout the Paralympics in Rio, that you can almost take this progression as a given. However, for each and every athlete this progression is a triumph. After all, there were no guarantees that triumph wouldn’t get eaten up by despair along the road.
I have been following up on a few of the athletes online after their events and sharing their stories on my blog. Not that I’m much of a sports commentator but I have lived through that despair and found my way out through my family and my writing. I wanted to pass on these athletes drive and determination as well as how they were inspired, or perhaps helped, along the way.
Last night,we were totally blown away by Australian Paralympian, Dylan Alcott’s speech about the need to include people with disabilities into all spheres of life…and work! It was such an inspiration that it was easy to lose sight of the ten year old boy who became a paraplegic following surgery to have a cancerous tumour from his spine removed. It was at this point that Starlight Children’s Foundation stepped in. As Dylan puts it: “Depressed and upset, the Starlight Children’s Foundation came to my rescue and granted me and my family a wish to swim with the dolphins at Sea World on the Gold Coast. It was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience that has stayed with me my entire life.”
Buoyed by a new outlook and determined to maintain his fitness, Dylan took up wheelchair tennis. Yet, while Dylan’s success might seem a forgone conclusion, he still had a long journey ahead.
“I was an insecure kid about my disability. A few kids used to call me a cripple and I hate that word. I used to believe them,” Alcott, 25, says.
“If you told me back then when I was 12 and not wanting to go to school that I’d be a triple Paralympic gold medallist across two sports, I would have said ‘get stuffed’.”
So, Dylan’s story emphasises once again how we can either be that person who sows the seed in someone else’s life. Or, we can be the lawn mower, running them down and chopping them up into bits. It’s a choice.
This is something we all need to think about but we also need to extend our compassion to people living with disabilities who aren’t in wheelchairs or wearing a neon sign advertising “what is wrong with them”. This can begin simply by not having to rush, be in a hurry and almost running over someone with a walking stick or takes their time. It means not parking in a disable parking spot without a permit. No excuses!! It means accepting some level of imperfection and offering a gentle correction, rather than swearing and putting other people down to make yourself look good. It means accepting other people for the unique lovely individuals they are instead of trying to mold the human race in our own image. These things aren’t easy but are really nothing more than common courtesy.
Just in case you’d like to help kids like Dylan, you can click here Starlight Foundation to donate.
As Dylan sums up: “Having a disability can be very hard, especially for kids growing up. These donations will assist in granting wishes for sick children and purchasing equipment to enable them to live better lives.”