Acceptance, Belonging, Community

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Image of two people embraced in a hug, one whose face is shown and he is smiling.

As I spent time at the recent Disabilities Expo, I had some wonderful ‘confirming’ moments, and some even better ‘aha’ moments.

I was fortunate to be working at the information, raffle, and survey area located just inside the entrance doors. Throughout the day I had the opportunity to observe, interact, and support people…ALL people.

What struck me the most on that rainy Saturday was the intense feeling of community. There was a community of vendors who provide supports to those who need them. A community of volunteers who give of their time freely and do whatever is asked of them. Most importantly, a community of individuals with such a varying level of need (I couldn’t even begin to define it).

I was able to talk with parents of children who were newly diagnosed with a disability, young adults with disabilities who were there to take part in the day, self-determined adults (some who knew what they were looking for and others who were there to experience it all), and seniors who were thinking ahead to their potential needs. Old friends came together, and new ones were made.

I was educated by Eric and Shaun about the realities of housing and independent living. I was impressed by Isabelle, a junior in high school, who volunteered to learn more about disabilities (she is planning to be a doctor). I spent time with Lynn who was enjoying the use of a wheelchair to watch the entertainment and visit with people. I guided a countless number of people registering for the wonderful raffle items (the Barbie’s were all a hit – read Patti’s article).

Wherever the 1,000+ people went during those five (5) hours, there was an overwhelming feeling of acceptance and belonging. A camaraderie that was open to learning, engaging, and participating. This event was not about a ‘segregation’ of people, but an integration of common interest, shared lived experiences, and the support of resources to move forward.

If you were there, you know. If you were not, watch for next years event and make it a priority. You will not regret the experience.