Discover more from More Than Normal: Breaking Down Barriers of Disability
The most severely impacted people have purpose, you just need to know where to look
Are you feeling down, frustrated or just plain logy? There is something that can help and all it takes is time and your willingness to participate.
Studies show that volunteering has a cumulatively beneficial effect on people’s moods and subsequently their overall health especially if the unpaid work involves social interaction. The National Association on Mental Illness, Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School are among many that tout the health and mood benefits of giving your time and energy to a cause you care about and to maintaining real social connection.
So I want to tell you about a day when I experienced the joy-generating effects of volunteering which I hope will last for several months, if not more.
Last week, I had the privilege of hanging out with a most happy bunch of adults. Many of them use wheelchairs and/or have significant difficulty communicating. But that doesn’t mean they don’t KNOW how to have fun.
If you know me, you’ve heard about Eagle Mount, the nonprofit I’ve been volunteering with for many years. The organization provides myriad recreational opportunities for people with disabilities — all types, all ages. It’s most remarkable.
That day, I experienced moments of pure bliss as I witnessed folks from Counterpoint; another nonprofit that provides transportation, vocational, work and residential services to disabled people in neighboring Park County, Montana; interact with horses, socialize, create art and swim at Eagle Mount.
The group arrived with an entourage of aids who are intimately familiar with each person’s quirks, preferences and needs and who act as interpreters for those of us not tuned in to the language of these remarkable people. Having aids there made it possible for us to focus on making the activities entertaining and accessible for everyone — even if it meant goading some who were a bit reticent to take a horse’s lead or get in the pool.
At one point, I was chatting with an Eagle Mount staffer as we watched participants guide horses through an obstacle course. I was so overcome with happiness, I nearly cried. It’s really difficult to put into words how impactful the day was to me. I think the photos better illustrate the joy.
But before you scroll through, it is worth mentioning, that if you are not accustomed to being around people with disabilities such as these, it may appear as though some of these people are in pain or cannot possibly be enjoying themselves. Rest assured if you’d been there, you’d have experienced what all of us did that day — pure unadulterated happiness. Those expressions that may seem to be grimaces are smiles and, in some cases, even laughter. Really.
One last thought: I grow indignant when anyone questions whether some people have something to “contribute to society.” As a busy adult with lots to do on any given day, I was honored to have slowed down to spend the day with these people who brought me so much joy. And for me, that is enough.