A small but personal contribution to Hope 2012: A Blog Relay.

My friend Adrielle is a superhero with a rare and debilitating connective tissue disorder. Her symbol of Hope is the zebra, whose origins reside in a slang term used to describe a surprising medical diagnosis. Surprising in its rarity: if you hear hoofbeats, you expect to see a horse, not a zebra.

There are many people out there with invisible illnesses. My own has an autoimmune origin. We often don’t look sick, which makes it harder not to try to do everything that is expected… whether it is ourselves that are doing the expecting, or others.

My son was also born with some differences – one is visible, in the shape of a hand deformity. We had an incident recently where another child around his age (12) screamed at it and ran away. I was more than a little disconcerted that a child of that age could react so thoughtlessly to something really quite minor, and equally so at the lack of concern her parents, who were in attendance, showed at her behaviour.

Yes, he writes with this hand.

When he first started school and the other kids noticed his hand, we would make a game out of temporarily restricting the use of their dominant hand in a similar fashion with tape… and since it’s the hand he writes with, getting them to draw a picture or write their name. Seeing 5-year old attitudes turn in an instant from horror at something ‘different’ to respect for how well he uses it… and then go on to explain it to other kids asking “what happened to his hand?” is an absolute joy, and as a result I’ve always been more a fan of open discussion and education to promote understanding and acceptance of an issue, than of trying to hide things.

My hope is twofold. One is that we can all be more understanding of our fellow humans… whether our differences are visible or not, whether they are in our body, mind, or mental health; our gender, sexual identity, skin colour, religion or nationality. The other… is that those of us with differences that restrict us in some way, can learn to accept ourselves and our limits for what they are, and live fulfilling lives within a smaller sphere than we would sometimes like.

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