Have you ever thought that your actions just might impact society more than your words ever will?
It took me a long time to figure this out as I was just sure I needed to use my voice in order to change the world for people with disabilities. I truly believed that if I just kept talking, eventually someone would listen and realize I was right. The more power I gained at the Statehouse, the louder I talked. Eventually, my words got ahead of me and I found myself struggling to get people to listen….. I was heartbroken.
I spent the next few years developing a new strategy, but the road getting there was bumpy. At one point, when I was complaining to one of my poor friends that I would never accomplish my goals for people with disabilities, she exhaustedly replied, “You already do, Val. Every time you put your girl out there, you are changing the world.” She was right. And although I have a blog, which highlights various issues facing the disability community, it is what I do off the computer that has the greatest impact.
My Super Bowl camp was a huge success, and although it never received any attention by the media or anyone else for that matter, it absolutely changed the lives of those 50 kids, their parents and the volunteers. Heck, it even changed me, because I can say with absolute honesty that these kids were oblivious to each other’s differences, and I have often wondered if this is truly possible. I have no doubt these kids and their parents walked out of the building with a new view of people with disabilities.
Actually, it all makes sense. How many times have you been told by someone that something you did impacted them, and you had no idea. In fact, you might not even remember doing it. It is the small, everyday things we do that show people what we really believe in and stand for. My goodness, words are simply words. They have the power to convict, but if we don’t back them up with our actions, they mean nothing.
Maybe you’re not comfortable blogging, or testifying in front of politicians, but every time you take your child to dinner, to the movies, to the grocery store, or sign them up for camp, you say volumes to everyone around you. And the more society sees our loved ones being part of the community, the more likely they will develop friendships, provide jobs, and welcome our loved ones into their world.
Sometimes I think we believe this process has to be full of bells and whistles and big rallies down at the State Rotunda. Sure, sometimes we need to get the community’s attention. But you will never convince me that the simple act of taking your child with a friend to McDonald’s doesn’t do just as much or even more.
Be the silent advocate. Show the world the living truth of disabilities.