Can our greatest teachers be persons born with disabilities?

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Debra & Sara Ruh

Debra & Sara Ruh

So many people are sad and have lost their ability to find the simple joys in life.  My Mom is one of those people and as she has aged she has become more and more negative and sad.  She has always been the half-empty type person but when we lost my Dad last year her filters went with him.  She struggles seeing the world as a good place and often gets lots in the darkness.

I try to gently remind her of all the joys and wonders all around her.  Instead she tells me that I am in denial about the sad state of the world.  She also thinks that I should lose the Rose Colored Glasses.  I love her and will always be there for her but her view of the world makes me sad.  I see the world as such an amazing place and as I get older want to continue to contribute to the world.

I have been blessed by a happy marriage for over 32 years and we have two grown children – Sara and Kevin.  Our oldest daughter Sara was born with Down syndrome and we named her after my mother.  Everywhere we looked we were told the dark, negative stories associated with raising a child with disabilities.  We decided the experts were wrong and proceeded to prove them wrong.

Our beautiful, loving, joyful and simply amazing daughter has been a great teacher to us.  She lives the great spiritual truths: “stay in the moment”, “see the good in everyone”, and “Life is about Love”.  I also practice these truths but it is truly a walk in faith sometimes.  If our intelligence was measured on how a person lives the greatest spiritual truths – Sara would be a great sage.

Sara and Kevin

Sara and Kevin

Sara’s brother Kevin has also been positively impacted by his sister.  Read his blog “Lessons Learned From my Sister” http://ow.ly/COnrj

Sara has inspired my work and I have spent the last twenty years in the disability field working hard to empower persons with disabilities (PwD).  I have worked with countries all over the world to create programs and policies to include PwD in every aspect of society with an emphasis on the workforce.  I have had the pleasure to work with huge corporations (national and multi-national) to help them understand how to include this segment of the population in their workforce and marketing efforts.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 1 in 7 people are impacted with a disability.  In the United States 1 in 3 families are impacted.  Source: NOD

Disability is part of life and we all will experience disabiity in our life times.  As we age more of us are acquiring disabilities.  I have worked hard to shine a different light on disabilities.  Instead of seeing it as a tragedy – we should realize it is part of life.  Obstacles allow us to find our greatest strengths and treasures in life?

My Mom has been a great teacher to me and she has been trying her entire life to manage her mental illness.  Life is tough for her and I try to be authentic with her and love her regardless of her negative view of the world.  I have heard experts say to stay away from negative people but at this time in my Mom’s life she needs me.  So I try to be authentic with her and try not to make her walk more difficult.

I view her negative lens of the world as an inspiration for me to always be grateful and see beauty in all things.  Maybe it is a defense mechanism but I have become a better person because of my Mom.

I also believe we can learn a lot from people like our daughter Sara Ruh.  She inately seems to understand the value of staying in the moment.  Eating when she is hungry, sleeping when she is tired (no matter where she is – smile), and staying 100% in the moment and fully authentic.  She is an amazing soul and I am so blessed to be part of her life.  Both the Sara’s in my world – my Mom and my Daughter have been great teachers and gifts to me.

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