One of the prompts for Friday Reflection this week is to write about someone who is a hero to me and why. I see a hero as someone who is very inspiring to me, whom I look up to. I discussed this with the institution pastor last year, when they did a summer series at church on inspiring people. He chose Mahatma Ghandi.
I see many people as inspiring. The most well-known person I mentioned to the pastor – but he’d never heard of her -, was Helen Keller. You’ve probably heard about her “miraculously” learning to use tactile sign language through the work of Anne Sullivan. Keller is also relatively well-known for having graduated college while being deafblind and a woman, both of which put her at a disadvantage in the patriarchal society of her time. However, you probably didn’t know that Helen Keller was a political activist, taking an important position in women’s suffrage and socialism. She was also one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union.
However, you don’t have to have overcome your disadvantages in some kind of miraculous way to be inspiring. In fact, most people only see Keller as having “overcome” her deafblindness and overlook her activism.
There are other disabled people I consider heroes. They however don’t do anything that makes them well-known and many have not “overcome” their disabiities at all. For example, I mentioned Cal Montgomery, author of Critic of the Dawn to my pastor. I don’t know her personally and she isn’t a public figure, so I cannot be sure that how I see her is correct. I do not know more about her than what I see through her writing. However, I can tell that she has determination. I do not admire her for having somehow proven her capacity to get out of an institution by denying her disabilities, which she may’ve had to do. Rather, I admire her for writing about human and civil rights for people judged to be too severely disabled to have these rights.
There are undoubtedly many other disability rights heroes in the world. Some are well-known in their particular disability communities. Others are not. What they have in common is not the “miracle” of their “overcoming” their disabilities, which Keller is publicly known for. Rather, they live their lives not just in spite of but also with their disabilities.
Living your life, in this sense, is a political statement. This applies particularly in the disability community, but it generally applies to everyone. People don’t need to be the first or the best or the greatest to be heroes. Everyone can be a hero in some ways.