Check out “Of Interest” Page —^ (above)

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Morgan Inspiration Island, San Antonio, TX

Amy Skiing!

Amy Van Dyken Rouen (another Dutch girl & 6x Olympic Swimmer) had her devastating accident about a month after mine. I kept hearing from family and friends that, “On a recent interview, Amy Van Dyken said … just like you’ve been saying, Collene.” I tried to send her a message but couldn’t find a way to contact her at that time. A message I started to her remains on my desktop under her name. That keeps her on my mind and recently I’d begun to wonder how she’s doing. Yesterday I heard another interview of her on the Today Show. I went online just now to find that interview. First, I happened on an interview done a couple months post-injury. Watching her struggle to pull her useless  & “dead weight” legs onto the bed brought instant tears to my eyes as I flashed back to  myself in those difficult days. I quickly fine-tuned my search and brought up this link:

http://www.today.com/video/watch-amy-van-dyken-rouen-ski-for-the-first-time-since-near-fatal-accident-918601795513

As I watched Amy ski, adaptive of course, some tears continued but I realized these were tears of joy over feeling so very proud of Amy – for her determination and what she was overcoming. You will be delighted that you took a couple minutes to view her interview – seeing and hearing her joy while skiing. Listen closely to her comment on how she (read: we) meets walls. We figure out ways to go under, around, over, or break through. We somehow overcome the walls and challenges. Go Amy!

Not sure I need to add the reminder to all of us to watch for our blessings.

Shalom, Collene

My Personal, Pint-Sized Angel

harper-1

A much-appreciated feature of our church is the many doors equipped with buttons for handicapped access – well beyond ADA requirements. (Don’t you just love when people do the right thing – not just the legal requirements?) On Sundays, part of the effort to make all feel welcomed is to have leaders in the church stand at the door to greet those coming in. A person typically stands by the access button and pushes it for everyone, offering an open door, but especially before an ‘otherwise abled’ person needs to push it.

A few weeks ago, the welcome person had her 3-year-old granddaughter standing with her. Mimi would remind the munchkin to push the button when helpful. I typically make a point to notice the welcoming person, catch their eye, smile, and thank them so they understand how much appreciated this small gesture is. I noticed the young girl and smiled, thanking her. Now, often when adults see my wheelchair, they quickly look away as if embarrassed, shutting down any need for further communication. This serious, little one looked directly at me after taking a hard look at my wheels. “Why do you do that?” she asked genuinely. I rolled up closer, looked her back directly in the eye, and explained in 3-year-old terms how I had been hit by another car just down the road from church. I went on to tell this attentive youngster that this happened when she was a very little girl. I used to walk just like she does, but now I can’t move below here (gesturing midway between my waist and shoulders.) I lifted my one leg to show that it was useless. She asked a couple more questions, I asked her name, and then we both went back to our own tasks.

After the service, I went to the gathering space where coffee is served. It just happens to be near the area where adults meet their youngsters after their church-school. I was delighted to notice this cute munchkin come back to see me. I gave her a big smile and said, “Hi, Harper! Glad to see you again.” This precious one reached out and gave me an unexpected hug. We chatted a bit about what she had done in church school, and we said good-bye. The following week, Harper came up to me where my husband and I sit – back of church where the cutout pews provide space for wheelchairs. She again gave me a welcomed hug, and we talked briefly about her week. Nearly each week she is at the door with Mimi or comes to find me in the back of church before the service starts. We briefly chat about her week, friends, her day, or how she looks.

During Advent, the children were gathered in front of the sanctuary as usual for the Word for Children. The leader was explaining that they would be lighting the pink candle on the Advent wreath. It stood for joy. Harper spontaneously raised both arms, turned a bit sideways, and struck what looked similar to a ballet pose. This was greeted by an immediate chuckle from the congregation. Harper’s pose underscored the meaning of joy in a much more meaningful way than any words could.

The last two weeks Harper has entered the back doorway that separates the sanctuary from the foyer, spotted me, and literally run to me to give me a big hug. What a wonderful way to begin the service and week for both Harper and myself. It didn’t take long for me to realize that Harper is my pint-sized angel. Her greetings are truly a gift of God.

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. (Hebrew 13:2, NIV)

Watch for your little angels. Shalom, Collene

A Story of Grace

I was asked to speak at our FL church for a stewardship moment. It is at the very beginning of the service immediately after the announcements. If it doesn’t come up, it was Nov. 27 ~ click the “watch” button.

http://www.moorings-presby.org/archive-services.html#

For a second time, my testimonial was called “A Story of Grace” by others. It is.

We all receive blessing. Shalom, Collene

Tears

Here we were on this lovely cruise. We were well fed, well taken care of, in an accessible room, relaxed, sunning, entertained, reading, … But, yet, as I read my book, I was tearing up for the second day. The book was historic fiction set near the end of the Civil War and slavery, written from the viewpoint of the slaves. I have read plenty of books about slavery, slave trade, Nazi suppression of Jews, Dutch suffering when caught for hiding the Jews, Japanese Internment camps, Native American suffering based on the US government’s broken promises and white western expansion, … lots of books about some of the worst examples of humanity. Why were the tears continuing to stream down my cheeks while reading this book, I wondered?

The slaves in this book kept supporting each other with promises from God. Promises like “his eye is on the sparrow” sustained those who were suffering. They had faith that, in the end, God would provide Glory. Eventually it dawned on me. Now that I am living in a wheelchair, I feel imprisoned in a body that no longer works. I have a small sense of what it must have felt like for slaves. In a way, I was like them with no way out of my paralysis, here through no personal choice, benefiting from the love of family who also had no ability to change my situation, … I thought I had always felt empathy for others. What I felt in the past wasn’t as real as it was now to feel the pain of others in similar groups.

Maybe the worst hurt came when I realized that a then-Presidential candidate was mocking others with handicaps like me. Not only did he think it was funny and ok to mock us (or anyone), but he did it while trying to impress and earn the support from voters who also thought it was ok. And, it wasn’t only those of us with handicaps but other groups were purposely targeted and disenfranchised.

Another realization was “in my face.” There was not one excursion off the ship in any of the six countries included on the ship itinerary that was wheelchair accessible. I was told by ship staff that one particular city we visited, of over a million people, did not have one bus in the city that was accessible. How challenging it must be for those with handicaps in such countries. It made me grateful for the many people before me who fought long and hard for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Fair Housing Act (FHA). I also wondered what America some people wanted us to go back to when America was greater than it is now. Prior to ADA or prior to more fair civil rights?

I am reminded of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I pray for America, Americans, and our leaders. Jesus ate with Samaritans and tax collectors. Our command is to love others as ourselves. Isn’t that how we work to help His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven?

Give thanks for your many blessings.

Shalom, Collene

Joy Through the Eyes of a Child: Who Just Happens to Have a Mobility Disability

 

Recently my husband and I were privileged to attend Stroll n’ Roll, a fundraiser and fun activity for Spina Bifida. Stroll n’ Roll, as I understand, was originated by two young moms who learned up close and personal what Spinal Bifida was all about. In a bit over a half dozen years, this event grew to what we witnessed and participated with. The event was moving, and I’ll share it through my impressions and recurring memories.

  • Hmmm, interesting:
    • We walked into a large, banquet room filled with hundreds of people of all ages, knowing, but not visually noticing, that it involved families living with spina bifida.
    • We were in the outstanding Frederick Meijer Gardens venue and were able to enjoy the gardens, sculptures, and thousands of fall mums. The most striking sculpture was the enormous Da Vinci Horse Statue.
    • A table of red t-shirts noting “ADJUST BELIEVE OVERCOME REDEFINING SPINA BIFIDA” with the JUST BE ME lined up vertically in the center of the wearer’s chest.
    • Vendors proudly participating in the event with samples of their products but also with their families present.
    • A nurse telling me she has participated for years with her personal children because at work, she sees the children at their lowest. Here, she sees them healthy and having fun.
  • So fun:
    • Boys about 2nd to 4th grade clad in new, red t-shirts greeting each other with huge smiles as only children can when they see another child who they may have just met or may have seen over the years.
    • Knowing one of the boys who is walking has spina bifida and an obvious friend his age in a wheelchair also with spina bifida.
    • One of the boys doing wheelies and balancing joyfully and proudly on his large, rear wheels.
    • Moments later 4 red, t-shirted boys gathered, chatting, smiling.
    • Young children with lights flashing on their wheels like one sees on some children’s shoe soles.
    • Wheelchair Michigan, proudly wearing her sash and ornate dress, rolling around the room, introducing herself for the award she had won and explaining her ambassador role. She told me she happens to have spina bifida as well but goes around the state greeting people and letting them know that life goes on for people in wheelchairs. (Example of her cutting the ribbon for a new beach access sidewalk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lO_iTiaVTI0)
    • A buzz in the room of lots of chatter, laughter, kiddos moving about the room comfortably, obviously well used to moving themselves around with their wheelchair, leg braces, or other methods.
  • Most tender sight:
    • A young child of about 2 years pushing the back of his (apparently) older sister’s wheelchair down the hall.
  • Signs of brighter times:
    • Sunshine breaking through the drizzle as we headed out, with my husband and I purposely holding back to watch the excited youngsters and their support groups heading out.
    • Lining up with about a hundred others to roll or stroll about the gardens with the other families and friends, unable to keep from smiling as I watched the kiddos with their flashing wheels and chairs touched with individualizing color and sensing their excitement.
    • Rolling as quickly as I could with my power assist wheels just to keep up with the scores of people who were in the line that began to stretch and thin out a bit. I recall feeling determined NOT to fall behind.
    • A group of probably 20-30 people of all ages, dressed in t-shirts proudly noting the name of the child they were there to support all gathered around and dwarfed by Da Vinci’s Horse.
  • Funniest memory:
    • Hearing a voice behind me say, “keep going, we’re falling behind that old lady.” It didn’t take much checking in my peripheral vision to note my grandmother wasn’t walking with me and they just might be talking about me.

Watch for your blessing in the eyes and smiles of our little ones.

Shalom, Collene

9/11/01 ~ 15 Years and Counting

Where were you when you first heard, then watched a plane crash into one of the twin towers of the NY World Trade Center? Each of you reading this will be able to quickly bring back the place, people, surroundings, feelings, conversations, uncertainties, immediate thoughts of the safety of personal loved ones, horrific images, … and, the rest of the day as well. This is a time for each to remember personal experiences and implications – not those of mine. … … … … Vivid and poignant, aren’t they?

It is hard to think such vivid memories are from15 years ago. Aren’t there things you wish our country had done differently since then? Aren’t there things you wish our world had done differently since then? Aren’t there things you wish you had done differently since then? I do! None of that can change. We can only impact the future. The Iroquois Nation said, “In every deliberation we must consider the impact on the seventh generation…even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.” I believe that is wise advice. In order to do that, we must study, think on, and then teach our family and share with our friends the “true north” in our lives, what we believe, what we trust, and what we value. May it be for Good and not for harm.

This morning I received a message from Cheri Lovre, the well-known and respected expert from The Crisis Management Institute, who helped me and many school leader friends deal with school crisis situations like suicide and the Amish school shooting personally, to the Columbine school shooting on a more national scale. Cheri closed her note with the following:

“I would hope for all of you that you find time for reflection on the preciousness of every moment, the treasure it is that we have for those who love us and those to love, and the opportunity for each of us to continue to strive to make a difference by bringing more than tolerance…by inspiring love in all corners of our world…or in the words of my favorite prayer, ‘to rise above the differences and distinctions which divide us…’

 “May we all bring the light of hope to those around us, most especially to the children and youth in the hallways of our schools. Never underestimate the encouragement you bring to students’ lives by your loving presence. Live is fragile. Fill it with goodness!”

Watch for your blessings – and be sure you are a blessing to those around you.

Shalom, Collene

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