Tag Archives: people

The art of listening

It is better to be a friend than to have one

Have you ever had one of those moments when you stumble across a quote or saying and it speaks to you, like it was meant for you at that exact point in time? Well, I had one of those moments the other week while reading a letter from a friend and seeing this quote, “it is better to be a friend than to have one”.

Friendship is one of life’s greatest blessings. Someone who is there in good and bad times, can make you laugh, cares about you, challenges you to become a better person, and listens whether you need advice or just want to talk.

But that last point is so often forgotten. Listening has become such a rare thing in a world full of people who only want to voice their opinions but don’t have time or care about opinions of those around them whether it’s in everyday conversations or on social media. More than often, we listen to reply, we don’t listen to understand. And by doing this, whether purposefully or not, we are creating an attitude of ignorance.

Growing up, I remember hearing about schools that would hand out awards for “talks the least, says the most”. That seemed like such a great award, something to strive toward in life. There is nothing wrong with talking, expressing yourself or voicing your opinions but communication is a two-way street. I truly believe there are times to talk and times to just be silent and listen.  By listening to those around us, we are showing respect, that we appreciate them, and are able to better understand their perspective.

The other week, I was asked to speak during the opening ceremony at a local Relay for Life event. It is always an incredible experience and slightly nerve-wrecking to share my story with others. It is truly humbling and makes me so happy to know that my story can help and inspire others.  As ridiculous as it sounds, in those moments I feel tickled pink. But what I love most about sharing my story with others is getting their response and hearing from them. I truly enjoy getting to know them better and learning about who they are. At the Relay for Life, it was overwhelming to see how cancer has affected so many people. To listen to a patient, survivor, or caregiver tell their story is to help them heal which is something I understand from personal experience. It is moments like that where it is more important to be a friend and to just listen.

 

A wise old owl lived in an oak,
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?

– unknown author

 

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This is not a staring contest

Throughout life people will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad. Let God deal with the things they do, cause hate in your heart will consume you too.

-Will Smith

When first starting my own blog, I was determined that it would have structure and meaning, instead of just rambling on about my life. Along with talking about my experiences, I wanted there to be a moral behind my stories or challenge how people think.  Well today, I’m breaking my own rule.

One of the most frustrating and annoying aspects of being disabled is how people have a tendency to judge based on your appearance or treat you differently. Being physically disabled, I can’t hide who I am but there are very few things as demoralizing as being judged based on my looks or having someone make a rude assumption. Just because you treat someone who is developmentally disabled a certain way does not mean you treat someone who has physical disabilities the same way.  One of my favorite things is when someone talks down to me, like I’m completely incompetent. I have a four year college degree and have experienced more in my life compared to most people my age. So thank you very much for insulting my intelligence and what I’m capable of, I appreciate it.

Or even better, when someone wants to ask me a question but instead of speaking directly to me, they speak to whoever I’m with. It’s like “Hello! I’m standing right here, I can hear what you’re saying”

As I get older you would expect people to become less judgmental but that’s not the case at all. It’s always amusing (and irritating) to watch the faces of people or just their subtle body language as I walk into a room, a store, or a restaurant. Their heads slowly turn as they stare at me or they start moving away from my direction. Or another one of my favorites when people point and whisper, that makes me want to walk up to them and say “Hey! What’s up? What are you talking about?”  I can’t even count  how many times I’ve been somewhere with friends and get spoken through or completely ignored altogether. I understand being hesitant about talking to someone who is disabled especially if that’s something you don’t usually do but really?! Pretending I don’t exist, that’s real mature, I know middle schoolers who are more grown up. Moments like these make me disappointed in our society and humans in general.

“Jack, sometimes you don’t have to mean to hurt someone to hurt someone. You understand?”
―Wonder, R.J. Palacio

There was one time, I was out with my brother. As we walked into the restaurant, a couple of guys were staring at me. I noticed them but just brushed it off because dealing with people like that is part of my life. I know I have an unsteady gait and walk different than most. Despite undergoing several surgeries to correct facial paralysis, I know my smile is not perfect, my one eye is misshapen, and because I cannot fully control my lips, it often looks as though my mouth is always wide open. This is who I am, yes I may be different from a normal person but I’m proud of myself. A book I read once said it best “Here’s what I think: the only reason I’m not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way.”

Afterwards, as we were heading home, my brother mentioned those guys and said he asked them what they were staring. My brothers are very overprotective of me because I’m their little sister but also because I’m disabled.  Like most people that I’m close with, they don’t think of me as their disabled sister, rather as just their sister which is something I love about them. So when people make a big deal over my disabilities or are rude towards me because of them, the inner Sonny Corleone comes out of my brothers. (you don’t mess with family)

As my brother told me this, I sarcastically responded “Maybe they were looking at me because I’m so gorgeous.” Sarcasm and a sense of humor is always my best defense mechanism. Although we both know that wasn’t the reason, he just shook his head and let it go.

And  that’s how I deal with judgmental and rude people all the time, just let it go. My mom always told me that when faced with ignorant, narrow-minded people is to use that as an opportunity to educate them or to broaden their perspective.  And if they are not willing to change their views of those with disabilities or to be more understanding, well at least I tried and that’s their own fault. Not to sound egotistical but if you are only going to judge me based  on my disabilities and not try to get to know me personally, well that’s your loss.

Last summer, I read a book titled Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It is about a boy born with a rare facial deformity. It discusses his experiences in life including his life at school and how people avoid him based on his looks. Along with his input, you hear from his family and friends. Although it is not a true story, it is based on real facts and the book is beautifully written. I suggest everyone read it. My facial problems are no where near Auggie’s but I can relate with so many of his experiences.

The truth is we all are disabled in someway, it just happens that you can see mine. I truly believe the worst disability in life is a bad attitude. We all have things that we need to work on. If you take anything from this post, please try not to judge or assume things about people with disabilities or anyone in general. I know I’m guilty of judging but it’s something I try to work on everyday. You never know what someone is going through.

“If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary – the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.”

-Wonder, R.J. Palacio

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Filed under Being disabled