Mom Jean Confessions: #MyReelMoment

I don’t normally use my blog to write about the past, and more specifically the struggles I went through coping with my dad passing away from cancer. But when sharing something so personal means helping contribute to a very worthy cause, I couldn’t help but want to be a part of the #MyReelMoment campaign that’s bringing awareness to the disabled community of Houston. I have been blown away by the inclusive community here in Houston, and when Jillian from Cup of Charisma told me she’s now working with ReelAbilities, a free Houston-wide film & arts festival to promote inclusion and celebrate people with disabilities, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved.

Not many people know what I went through in the coming months after my father’s passing, and not because they didn’t care – because I did what I always do, and kept all my emotions in. I watched my mother grieving openly and comfortably sharing her emotions, and believe me, there were times when I wished so hard that I could do the same. Instead, I was given a unique opportunity to put my life in perspective, and that’s just what I did. A close friend, and pretty much my adopted big sister, told me about how she was planning on volunteering at SIRE, a therapeutic equestrian center in Houston that specializes in horsemanship as way to improve the quality of life for people with special needs and disabilities. I was intrigued because for one, my father was a champion show-jumper and I had him to thank for my love of horses. I also started to think that maybe helping someone else who was going through their own personal struggles on a daily basis, on a much larger scale then myself, would help to put things back in perspective for me. And I was right – thanks to a little girl with cerebral palsy. Every week, I would show up and volunteer as a side-walker (someone who provides physical and verbal support) during her therapy riding lesson. And every week, she would amaze me with her whit, perseverance, and just general positive outlook on life. There were times when I would watch her back seize up from being unaccustomed to the position of riding a horse. Every time, I’d catch her and she would say “I’m ok, I’m ok” and push herself upright again – this would go on sometimes multiple times throughout a ride. I would just look at her and think, if she can do this, I can do this. This life that seems so hard and unfair and not worth living at times. But yet, here she was, confined to a wheel chair probably for the rest of her life, and all she could talk about was how excited she was to be there, and literally would bust my chops almost the whole ride about silly stuff: how she’d met a cute boy at school (she was about middle school age) and wanted to know if I had a boyfriend (I had just met Grant). I even watched her older sister and would think how hard it must be for this little girl to not ever get to do the same things in life as her. But I was wrong, because this little girl wasn’t going to let any disability hold her back from doing what she loved. She’d surprise me with stories about going through cheerleading tryouts with her sister and actually making the team. I felt so silly for not considering cheerleading to be something she could even pursue. It made me so proud. It was also exactly what I needed to hear.

As the months went on, and as my volunteering sessions came to a close, I came to realize how dependent I had become on this young girl who I was having to say goodbye to. But I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to go back to being bitter about life – I needed her around to remind me every week that each day was a blessing no matter how difficult at times. But as I hugged her for the last time and told her mom how thankful I was to have met her little girl, I felt as if I was walking away a different person. A person who felt she had nothing to feel sorry for herself about. A person who was given a chance to appreciate life in a whole new light. A person who now had experienced first hand what the disabled community really is – a community of people just living their lives one day at a time, just like all of us and who deserve the right to be seen as equals and given the same opportunities for inclusion in all that life has to offer. These are the same core values ReelAbilities strives for, and if one girl can do the amazing things she proved to me, just think what potential a whole community has.

If you have a similar story to share please feel free using #MyReelMoment, and if you’re in the Houston area – check out reelabilitieshouston.org to register for free tickets to their upcoming events this month. Hope to see you there!

Jan. 30-March 31: ReelArt: The Art of Celebration (an art gallery with works created by artists living with disabilities)
Feb 14 – A Short Preview of the Festival with the Houston Ballet 
Feb. 16 – ReelPeople: UP Abilities (a lineup of thought leaders speaking on mental and physical disabilities and topics of inclusion)
Feb. 19-23 – ReelAbilities Film Festival (see site for more details)
Feb. 23 – ReelMusic: An All-Inclusive Jazz and Blues Jam

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