inspiration vs. normal

So I am excited about something that others have been sharing this week. Though People magazine is probably my least favourite read, one of their articles went viral this week.  Here's the article via NPR for your perusal.

No, the People article is not about some other movie star or TV has-been. It's about a TV show that has been a favourite here... and I suspect in many of your homes for more than one generation.  Sesame Street has introduced a new character with Autism.  And with that introduction, they have also created resources to help parents and others.

No one person or organization is perfect, but I love that Sesame Street is trying. And they've been working at inclusion long before it became a sexy word. Back in the late 70s/early 80s, one of their writers, Emily Perl Kingsley (also happens to be the author of the poem Welcome to Holland), wrote her son Jason into the scenes as a regular guest. Her son also happened to have Down Syndrome.

Also trending this week - do I sound official? - is an article connected with Changing the Face of Beauty, an organization intent on promoting equal representation of people with disabilities in advertising and media worldwide.  Recently, Target (one of the companies willing to embrace this vision) featured a young model wearing an Elsa costume. The model just happened to also have braces and arm crutches.  However you feel about Target or Halloween, the visual presentation is pretty cool.  And one mom's response to the ad is worth reading.

Each day, we can be bombarded with images that challenge or motivate or guilt us into how we should live, act and perceive. Facebook and other social media can easily be used to distort truth or help us create a facade of reality.

So this idea of Sesame Street and Target working at authentic inclusion is encouraging to a family like mine, a family that wouldn't be considered normal by some.

Because it would seem that exclusion is a learned behaviour - and not just from magazines and the media.  More than once, I have experienced the well-meaning parent shushing their child and pulling them away from my kids - when all the child wanted to do was look at Rachel and Janneke and understand. Recently, this happened at IKEA with Rachel, and I felt discouraged and irritated. I wanted to approach the families and introduce my kid to their kid.

What I mean is that I'm not looking for my kids to be your inspiration, i.e. you need to make friends with my kid because she's disabled... I simply want to expand that definition of normal. As someone once said, normal is just a setting on the dryer.

a normal way to sleep - for Janneke

Because sometimes, I get uncomfortable with the excitement of inclusion being mainstream.  And I know that for a few families, everyday inclusion is sometimes too overwhelming.  When we talked about bringing Rachel into her community school, many said how great the experience would be for other children.  I agreed. But we also wanted to be confident the experience of inclusion would be great for Rachel. I have no desire to put my kid in the foreground of the photo to show you how cool Beacon is because they have a kid in a wheelchair.

Instead, I desire to see the kids in her school and the kids in her life simply accept and know that all kids are cool, created to be amazing in their own way and in the way of their Creator God. I believe He has purpose in disability - not to inspire but to challenge all of us to make the world better.

This is not meant to blow off or ignore the caregiver struggling to help their child or the person who is living with a painful disability.  The young Elsa from the Target ad with braces and arm crutches doesn't show us the harder parts of living with limits. If I don't believe there's purpose in the disability, somewhere, somehow, then there isn't anything left to hang on to.  That belief in purpose might only be one small thread at times... but it is there.

And hopefully, the more the stories are shared, 'grammed, tweeted, fbooked, blogged, told, chatted, the more our definition of normal changes, and our response to these struggles and to the needs will increase. That those listening and watching, from large companies and their advertisers to the people shopping at IKEA to the guy sitting next to you and yours in a restaurant, will not be so much inspired as motivated to help.

captured these three among many who were gathered around Rachel at recess earlier this week