I’m back! In mid-January, I took a sudden leave of absence from posting on my blog due to stepping into a new role in my personal life as foster parent to a beautiful baby boy. Although I could write posts upon posts about this wonderful experience, I will just say for now it has brought me a profound sense of joy, like no other. My blogs will be just monthly for a while as I have been working on this current one for the past several weeks….a few spare moments at a time!
What I am actually going to talk about is….deep breath….Lady Gaga….oh, I know….I cannot believe it either, but hear me out. I will begin with my Gaga disclaimer. I do not tend to follow celebrities in general and I am sure at least one of my nieces will be surprised that I even know who Lady Gaga is. Like many others, I have pretty much judgmentally dismissed Lady Gaga as a “fly by night, flash in the pan” celebrity. That’s harsh, I know, but c’mon, she wore a meat dress to an awards ceremony. Being a vegetarian, I am grateful I never saw the actual dress!
Then Lady Gaga did something recently that got my attention in a positive way. She launched the Born This Way Foundation. Here is the description of it from their website:
The Born This Way Foundation was founded in 2011 to foster a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated. The Foundation is dedicated to creating a safe community that helps connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a braver, kinder world.
We believe that everyone has the right to feel safe, to be empowered and to make a difference in the world. Together, we will move towards acceptance, bravery and love.
Wait a minute….that’s what I focus on with my work in teaching people about embracing disabilities. Disabilities are differences to be embraced and celebrated. The more people embrace and celebrate disabilities, the more the world becomes braver and kinder. That has at least been my experience. There is much truth in a person feeling safe enough to become empowered and then make a difference in the world. But in order for that sense of safety to happen, a foundation of acceptance – both within the person and others – has to occur. Differences have to be seen as an integral part of who someone is for the world to receive all the lessons they offer. I think Lady Gaga’s foundation may have some great insight to what is the cornerstone of personal empowerment – celebrating what’s different, being confident in that difference, and then showing it to the world.
It was the name of the foundation that really caught my attention. Born this way. Born this way. Takes me right back to my childhood and my parents teaching me to respond to comments and even laughter about the way I walk and talk, by explaining not in a defensive way, but in a matter-of-fact manner, that I was born this way. Born this way, with cerebral palsy, with a speech affect, with a significant gait in my walk. Born this way. This is who I am and this is how I was created. My differences make up who I am.
By teaching me to respond this way, my parents laid the groundwork for my own acceptance of my disability. I was born this way. This is who I am. As an adult, young children would innocently ask, “Why do you walk funny?” Without pausing, I automatically respond, “I was born this way.” Depending on the age of the child, this answer either elicits further questions (which becomes a great teachable moment) or a simple acceptance of the facts – oh, okay, this is part of who you are.
I look forward to the day when everyone, not just young children, see being “born this way” as a wonderfully diverse aspect of life and not something to be feared or ridiculed. Thanks, Lady Gaga!