Fighting for disability rights can inspire many emotions: urgency, satisfaction, sadness, joy, anxiety, anger, and triumph. However, with Thanksgiving coming up this week, as people across the country spend time reflecting on the blessings in their lives, I would like to take this opportunity to express gratitude for all of the blessings that this work has brought to my life. I worked at AAPD from 2008 to 2011, and during that time I was honored to be involved with a number of exciting and meaningful programs and coalitions including Justice for All (JFA), the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition (IDAC), the Disability Vote Project (DVP), and the National Disability Leadership Alliance (NDLA). The people I met and the experiences I had doing this work made me a better, more patient, more passionate person.
I believe that we, human beings, are created to find fulfillment in community, be they our families, faith groups, schools, or workplaces. This Thanksgiving I will be giving thanks for the disability community. I am thankful for the inspiring legacy that has been passed down to us by leaders like Justin Dart, Fred Fay, Judi Chamberlin, Max Starkloff, Paul Hearne, Laura Hershey and many, many more. I am thankful for the guidance and example of our community’s current leadership, many of whom are my personal role models, who have taught me about solidarity, power and justice. I am thankful for the commitment and courage of advocates, young and old, who travel across the nation, call or email to share their personal stories with policymakers when called upon in times of great need. I am thankful for each small step we take toward a more accessible, inclusive, and just society, and I am thankful for the remaining challenges that we will face together, which teach us to value each other and our interdependence. But most importantly, I am thankful for the companionship and camaraderie of colleagues-turned-friends who are there to offer plucky words of encouragement when I lose motivation, who push me to stretch my limits, who have walked and rolled with me in the heat and the rain shouting “Our Homes, Not Nursing Homes!” until our voices went hoarse.
This Thursday as I close my eyes to pray, I will hold in my heart a sincere prayer of thanksgiving for bringing the disability community into my life.