Soul Surfer

My daughter was home for Easter weekend so the family enjoyed a rare night out to the movies. The movie “Soul Surfer” had been recommended to us so we chose to attend on Sunday afternoon. I was in a bit of a huff when I arrived due to some family conflict, missing the first part of the movie while I sat and fumed. (Yup… I definitely need to learn to fume a little quicker).

Once I started paying attention, however, I really enjoyed the movie. When you “hear again” with a cochlear implant, you really do have to make the concentrated effort to PAY ATTENTION as listening is no longer a passive exercise – rather an active effort. On occasion, I’m lucky to snag a movie we are attending that is open captioned. I do not have to focus with nearly the same concentrated effort when the movie is open captioned. As it was, I finally TUNED IN and really enjoyed the movie. I won’t spoil it for you in case you haven’t seen it, but basically a teenager learns to live life differently due to circumstances that were neither predicted nor expected. She learned that “in spite of” she can continue to make a difference in the lives of others… to touch souls.

Individuals with acquired disabilities of any kind have to do the same, don’t they? I mean the alternative is isolating yourself and giving up. That isn’t a life I’d wish on anyone. (Believe me I know, because I tried it for a short time!) It takes a lot of courage to persevere and learn to do some things differently when life throws you a curve ball. I’ve always been a lousy “catch”, so wouldn’t you know when my own disabilities took hold and changed my life that I was totally unprepared?

I was at a Fidos For Freedom training with my assistance dog one Saturday and a fellow client that I have come to know quite well wasn’t at all surprised by a blunt question. We had learned to be “straight” with each other early on because we discovered that by doing so we could learn from each other. She is a client who has been matched with a service dog trained to assist her with mobility tasks. Having experienced a recent “wet week” due to spring showers in our area, I asked her how she found the wherewithal to come to trainings after having a “bad week”. She has had to learn to do things differently because of her disability and must prepare well in advance when attending trainings that other people may be able to spontaneously decide to attend! She said, “I simply remember that by coming I have opportunities to encourage someone else. I don’t want to miss those opportunities so I get my butt out of bed!”

I’ve never met anyone that was not able to MAKE A DIFFERENCE in the life of another. I don’t care who you are or what your circumstances are. The only necessary ingredient to successfully touching the life of another is BEING WILLING. If you aren’t willing, it will never happen. People with acquired disabilities have learned to maximize technology. We have learned to perhaps do something DIFFERENTLY in order to accomplish a task. We have also learned when to cut ourselves some slack. People with acquired disabilities have learned to ask for help at times. We are malleable, persistent, and BRAVE. No worries. I’m not “tooting my own horn” here, I’m simply pointing out the obvious having met numerous people with acquired disabilities.

Surfing for Souls

There are numerous ways individuals can make a difference. My “short list” is below. Feel free to leave comments and add to this!

1. Join online support groups and be active in the group. Reach out to others who are perhaps struggling with a new acquired disability.

2. If possible, participate in local support groups or chapters that meet physically each month. Go prepared to learn, but look for opportunities to serve.

3. Be open and honest. Don’t hide the fact on your Facebook. Don’t make your disability invisible. Visibility allows others to see you active in your community, doing things others do without thought. Shopping, church, or GOING TO THE MOVIES are all activities we can still accomplish. Welcome questions and be prepared to be a positive advocate.

4. Have business-card sized cards available to give to people who stop to ask questions about the: Cochlear implant bling, service animal, hearing aids, wheel chair, walker or bright purple cane! In this way they can contact you at a later date and ask questions in a more controlled, confidential way. They may need the information for themselves, or for someone they care about who struggles with their own acquired disability.

5. Don’t apologize for being different. Celebrate it!

6. Advocate, advocate, advocate! When the support groups and organizations to which you belong do annual fundraisers, DEMOS, or community service appearances, do not hesitate to get involved and advocate! At times you will be called upon to write local or state government officials. Take the time to do this!

I remind myself as I encourage you to do the same. I need to be be aware on a DAILY basis. I can surf for souls to touch. I can make a difference!

Denise Portis

© 2011 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

2 thoughts on “Soul Surfer

  1. Denise your post has brought tears to my eyes! Yes, embracing, managing and, heck, even celebrating our “disabilities” is key to loving ouselves and others. One “gift” of my FMS/CFS and other physical challenges is that it has made me more human. I’m much more sensitive to others who are sick or suffering. And I’m a much more receptive person to the care of others towards me. My walls have come tumbling down for sure.
    One item I would add to your list is for those with chronic conditions to participate on ongoing research, studies and clinical trials. This is a huge way to give to others that may be suffering, now and in the future. I just finished a clinical trial at the NIH for a new medication for FMS, and I’m in another study on FMS that is ongoing at Georgetown. I’ve met great people this way, plus I’ve learned a lot about my condition and disgnosis. More importantly, I’m giving to others!

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