~ Jessica Long, Paralympic Swimmer adopted from Russia.
"Are you okay?"
"Did you hurt your foot?"
When people ask me these questions, I smile. No, I'll say. I just have a mild form of Cerebral Palsy, that affects my walking and balance.
Several nights ago, I watched the movie "My Left Foot" The film tells the story of Christy Brown (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) a well-known Irish writer and artist.
He had Cerebral Palsy too.
Cerebral Palsy is a physical disability resulting from brain injury. It can affect body movement, muscle control and coordination, reflex and balance. Cerebral Palsy is permanent, but it shouldn't worsen if you take care of your body. "People who have Cerebral Palsy may also have visual, learning, hearing, speech, epilepsy and intellectual impairments. (Courtesy of: https://www.cerebralpalsy.org.au/what-is-cerebral-palsy/)
Christy Brown's Cerebral Palsy was much more severe than mine. The only part of his body that he had control over was his left foot. Born in the early 1930s, to a poor Irish family with thirteen children, there was very little help for Christy. Despite his circumstances, he went on to write several novels and showcased his paintings.
Doctors gave up on him. Like doctors in Russia and the US gave up on me.
But his mother saw more potential. So did my mom.
Within the first five minutes of the film, I had tears in my eyes. Before half an hour had passed, I was sobbing.
The strain on Christy's face as he tried to command his brain to move his toes mirrored my own frustrations as child. I cannot explain how those scenes affected me, as someone with CP myself.
There was obvious intelligence in his eyes, waiting to escape, to prove himself to others that had written him off as a failure. Some people treated Christy as if because he had a disability, he did not have emotions. As an older sister to five younger sisters with special needs, I especially connected to these parts of the film. Having a disability doesn't mean my sisters don't have feelings. In fact, it makes my sisters more aware of what other's think about them.
"It must be so difficult."
"I'm so sorry."
"I didn't want to say anything."
These are some common responses I may get after I tell people that I have CP. I just smile at these responses. Are there days were I am frustrated that I can't do simple things like ride a bike? Yes. Does it make life that much harder for me? No. Do I wish that I did not have CP? No. I believe God has used my CP to make me a humbler, more compassionate person than I would be without a disability.
I don't mind when people ask about my CP. I'm glad when people ask, because it opens their eyes to something they may not have known about. It's also a platform to share my passion for special-needs adoption.
Still, there are times when, like Christy, I feel less than inspirational.
There were days when Christy was full of self-pity. He felt miserable, so he wanted others to feel miserable too. Sometimes, I behave the same way.
That is wrong.
If I am feeling miserable, it is because I am focused on my own selfishness.
Instead, I must choose joy by looking outside of myself and remembering my blessings.
If I focus on what I cannot do, I miss what God can do.
*I did not agree with everything portrayed in "My Left Foot" and sadly, Christy Brown's story did not have a happy ending. (This was left out of the film, but you can read about it here). Nevertheless, I believe the film accurately portrays the daily struggles of people with CP, regardless of the severity of their disability.