‘Because we can.’
This has been my answer to many questions I have asked myself and I have been asked by others. It’s the answer people get tired of hearing from me and possibly stops them from coming back for more! It’s how I wear myself out and take on too much. It’s the answer that drove my daycare teacher to distraction when I was three years old and lead me to what I now know was the first step in my journey supporting and advocating for people with disabilities. I was lucky enough to leave daycare and spend my days at work with my mum at the Cerebral Palsy Association. I played with kids who couldn’t use their voices to talk. We worked it out. I played with kids who couldn’t use their arms and legs like me. I helped them and we worked out ways to play so we all had fun. I never saw difference, just kids to play with. I remember being so upset when my mum explained to me that my friends didn’t get to go home. They had beds in long lines in one big room. Beautiful, bright bedspreads with pictures on the roof. Oh how I wanted pictures on my roof! And then my friends started getting wheelchairs they could use on their own and I wasn’t allowed one. I didn’t understand why. It was explained to me and then I had to learn there was a difference. They needed wheelchairs, I just wanted one because all my friends had one. Need for support verses wanting.
There is so much we can do to support each other and given the chance most people will jump at the chance to help someone. It’s the Aussie way. If a mate is in need, we get in there and we do what needs to be done. We do good in a crisis, in emergencies, we know how to rally the town and look after each other. We do good. No, we do great!
I find it interesting that this incredible community force that you see at events such as Telethon, where millions of dollars are raised can become invisible in the day to day life of people with disabilities. The little girl who is the face of Telethon grows up to be the young woman who is fighting the NDIS for basic transport funding to she can commute within her community. The kids that stay up all night to see their favourite celebrities go back to school on Monday morning, life goes on. It’s not that we don’t want to help, we just don’t see the need. We don’t understand the need. It is not our need, it becomes about integrity.
The value of ‘Integrity’ is a difficult one to learn. We live in a society that rewards ‘good’ with such public attention that it is almost expected. Little kids are used to being told they are getting things ‘right’ and doing ‘good work’. My girls are only 7 and 8 years old so we have a very simple definition of integrity in our home. ‘Doing the right thing when no one is watching.’ It’s that simple. Do they get rewarded? Yes they do. When I catch them displaying integrity I celebrate with them. Not with lollies or tick charts, but with admiration and thanks. I’m thankful that I didn’t have to tell them what to do. I’m thankful that they saw an opportunity and took it. It gives me hope. Hope that one day they will be the teacher that implements the teaching and learning adjustments for their students with disabilities with integrity. Hope that they will be inclusive of others, with integrity. Hope that they will see an opportunity and take it to make a difference in someone’s life. Because they can.
So when I’m asked why I do what I do or why I take time to do things as well as I can with the abilities I have been given, it’s about integrity. I do what I do because I can. My team does what it does, because we can.
The question we are left to ask is ‘Why wouldn’t we?’