I was humbled yesterday. Brought to tears by one man’s story.
He’s 47. When he was 2 or 3 days old, he stopped breathing. Oxygen deprivation resulted in Cerebral Palsy.
His movements are jerky but he can walk.
His speech is limited, but he can talk.
My hearing’s okay, he motioned to the crowd who sat listening in awe to his speech at “Let’s Talk Hope” yesterday, a one day conference designed to create conversation, communication and connection on mental health. Organized by the incredible Connie Jakab of Movement with a Message, the day was jam packed with inspiring speakers, performers and attendees.
And then, Sheldon Penner took the stage, or Shel-dog as he likes to be called.
If you’ve wondered what someone with a disability can teach you, believe me, it’s a lot!
Sheldon can’t speak. At least not in the traditional form of speaking to which we were accustomed. Yesterday, Sheldon taught all of us that lack of verbal communication acumen doesn’t mean you can’t communicate.
For 15 minutes, the audience laughed, cried, cheered and sat in absolute silence as the words Sheldon typed on his laptop were projected onto the giant screen behind him. They sat in silence as they read the words of his pre-loaded powerpoint and they held their breath as the poignancy and truth of his words dug into their hearts and minds.
What hurts me? Sheldon asked.
People not understanding. People thinking I’m stupid. People judging me.
It was all there, in black and white on his screen. The limitations of we, the able bodied, to cope with someone else’s visible disabilities. Our inability to walk with grace no matter who we encounter.
I was humbled yesterday by a man who cannot speak but whose words touched my soul so deeply, I cried in the light of his beauty, courage and grace.
Thank you Connie Jakab for being such an incredible light in a sometimes dark world. Thank you for sharing your brilliance to create Let’s Talk Hope so that together, we can all see in the dark and shine a little brighter.