Thursday, January 29, 2009

Do you have 2 minutes?

As some of you may have read if you have been following NY State news, some of the Empire Games have been canceled. At the moment, the Games for the Physically Challenged have not and we want to keep it that way. If you have a moment, please sign the petition here:

Why is this so important to me?

When I was younger, my mom took my twin and me to the Games for the Physically Challenged every year. It was such an incredible weekend and we looked forward to it every year. The significance of these Games is something very personal and, in some ways, difficult to share, but this issue is too important for my self-consciousness.

As most of you know, I have cerebral palsy. It's nothing I talk about and it's so mild that there is very little I can't do as a result. I've always had amazing support in friends and family to help me up when I fall and laugh at my uncanny ability to trip over my own two feet. I'm very lucky and I know this.

All of this said, when I was younger (particularly in elementary school), this self-acceptance eluded me. I was "different" and I knew it. And while I had a wonderful circle of friends (Lisa, as my kindergarten buddy, you were the very best!), I was made fun of in school and as a child, it was incredibly difficult to be "different" to my peers. It was not always so easy to ignore the stares, tune out the laughs, and shrug off the cruel taunting some children feel the need to inflict.

I have this one distinct memory of the Games, I'm not sure exactly the year or what I was doing, but I remember walking around and feeling so incredibly happy because I realized that on this one weekend the roles had been reversed and I was in a world that was designed specifically to serve me, my twin and the other children with physical limitations. What the Games gave to me was one weekend where I was finally NOT different; it was everyone else who was. (In an ENCR sense, it was a bit like B. Anderson's Imagined Community, if you will.) I ran in track and swam races and and, sometimes, I even won. Everyone smiled and laughed and cheered and no one ever stopped clapping until the last athlete had crossed the line. I've rarely felt such a sense of love and community. It was at the Games where I first realized that I would never have wanted to be anyone else than who I was, and that given the opportunity, I wouldn't change anything about myself. As strange as this may sound, I was proud of my CP.

The Games showed us that we were all winners. Yes, the Games gave me medals and certificates, but they gave me so much more. They gave me self-confidence and self-acceptance. Today's children deserve that same experience.

Please take a moment to sign the petition.

Thank you!

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