Looking Past Limits (With Caroline Casey)

Today’s post features a remarkable speech by an even more remarkable woman, Caroline Casey. Her accent is lovely and her speech is powerful. Moreover, her message is intimately connected with the mission of A Wish Come Clear, and so I’ll simply say, you must watch.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t watch this without crying. My tears started when the specialist asked Caroline, “Why are you fighting so hard not to be yourself?” “Do you love what you do, Caroline?” “What did you want to be when you were little?”

By asking her these questions, the specialist was calling out the real Caroline. He was planting a small seed of dreaming within what was a very, very dark time in her life.

Who calls out the real you? How would you answer the questions above?

Today, Caroline Casey is an advocate and social entrepreneur, bearing the good news that having a disability doesn’t mean the death of one’s dreams. Disability doesn’t mean one can’t live fully. Disability, after all, is just a word, just a label. But it’s a label that has caused a lot of hurt throughout our collective history.

As Caroline says, there are over one billion people worldwide affected by some type of disability. And yet so often disability is ‘the elephant in the room’. Even today, people with disabilities are villanized, marginalized and ignored. Caroline’s talk shows that having even one person believe in you, stand by you, and sink to the bottom with you can make all the difference.

“We all hide bits of ourselves,” she says. “[But] being absolutely, truly yourself is freedom.”

What’s one ‘bit of [yourself]’ that could come out of hiding today? Tell me in the comments!

In closing, here’s an excerpt from my forthcoming (free!) ebook, “Your Creed Of Care:  How To Dig For Treasure In People (Without Getting Buried Alive)”:

“I still remember the first time I saw someone from L’Arche ‘overtly’ rejected by society.

We were out at our neighborhood Starbucks. Brothers Miguel* and Pedro* were happily having coffee with me and another assistant. Miguel and Pedro are two men with intellectual disabilities who have lived at L’Arche for…over thirty years, combined. As such, they’re well-known (and welcomed) in our DC neighborhood.

At Starbucks that day, Pedro was chatting away, and I was laughing as I listened. As is his custom, Miguel (the more introverted of the brothers) reached out by offering his hand to everyone who passed close-by our table. “Shake-a-hand?” he’d say. And everyone smiled and gave him their hands…until one man just didn’t.

Miguel extended his hand, beamed up at the businessman in his nice suit. The man stared coldly back, taking in only Miguel’s wheelchair, his missing teeth and his obvious ‘disability.’ He turned away wordlessly. Miguel’s hand stayed out, but his face fell.

I can still feel the fury and shame I felt at that moment. How could he? Seriously? What kind of an insensitive, intolerant person…it was all I could do not to strike back.

It’s only now that I realize:  that man, insensitive and intolerant though he was, had something valuable to teach me. He taught me that a lack of compassion for others is a lack of compassion for oneself. He showed me that, in rejecting Miguel’s hand, he was rejecting himself. He was acting out of fear…fear that, in coming into contact with Miguel, he’d somehow compromise his carefully-constructed façade. He was afraid that, if he acknowledged Miguel as a friend or brother, he’d lose something. For whatever reason, he was afraid to let his heart shine through. And that’s something I can relate to.

As I wrote in my post, “Shine On ‘Til Tomorrow:  4 Illuminating Questions To Ask Today”:

“Every time I have wanted to let myself ‘shine’ in a new way, I’ve faced this haunting fear. That fear speaks to me in (barely-audible) words:  “If you do [x, y or z], you’ll put even more distance between who you are and who your brother is. You’ll be abandoning him. You won’t be able to connect. And if you do manage to take a leap, I’ll make every step fraught with guilt, so deep-down you can’t identify it or shake it. Because your brother is who he is, you don’t deserve to be who you are.

I’ve recognized this kind of thinking as a lie. I only hope that someday the man we met at Starbucks will, too.

I’m not abandoning my brother when I let my gifts shine. Likewise, the man we met at Starbucks would not have been abandoning himself in meeting Miguel as an equal; indeed, he might have had a chance to find his true self at last.”

*Names have been changed.