July is Disability Pride Month. Disability Pride, for me, is something that I haven’t felt all of my life. It’s only within the last several years that I’ve truly begun to accept my disability. A conversation that would forever change the way I saw myself occurred on Christmas Eve 2013.
My cousin, who was six years old at the time, approached me and said, “Mind if I ask you something”? I knew what question he was probably going to ask. I have had the conversation about my disability with many different people from all walks of life. I prepared to give my cousin the same answer that I had given dozens of times before. I had no idea that this conversation was going to be much different.
Nothing could have prepared me for what he said after I explained my cerebral palsy to him. I was expecting him to ask more questions or to ask if cerebral palsy was contagious. Not much surprises me when it comes to people’s curiosities. I certainly thought I had heard almost every type of reaction when it comes to my disability.
Much to my surprise and delight, my cousin turned to me and asked, “Isn’t it your heart that truly matters”? I immediately felt my eyes fill with tears. I felt my heart swell. I told him, “Yes, it is your heart that truly matters.” I turned away from him so that he wouldn’t see me becoming visibly emotional. I was in awe of the fact that a young boy could say something so heartfelt.
That day was when I slowly began to feel more accepting of my disability and its related challenges. Cerebral Palsy is not something that I feel ashamed of. Cerebral Palsy is a part of who I am, but it is not all of me. Above all else, I am a human being who deserves to be treated with respect and dignity just like anybody else. I would never have guessed that the path to feeling comfortable in my body for all its imperfections and limitations would start with a six-year-old boy.