My single girl friends are bending the ear of heaven asking for a mate; my married ones are praying for babies. I have a hard time even pretending in the presence of the Almighty that these are my deepest desires.
I’d like to become a speaker.
Not the Matt Foley SNL character living in a van down by the river, or the disabled champion who perpetuates the myth that there are no limits and anything is possible.
I want to teach people to see each other—to walk into a room and switch the question from “Who do I know?” to “Who needs to be known?”; to look deep into the soul of a human being and see the whole person. I would love to inspire others to catch a glimpse of our identities reaching far beyond our attractiveness and flaws. We must learn how to honor each other because we are human; to behold beauty even in the face of our enemies and those who are different because we were all created in the image of God. Even in our quirks and imperfections we must do the courageous work of boldly showing up to our lives as ourselves, because our uniqueness can ultimately become the gift we offer the world.
Like a mirror, my friend looked at me in the eyes one night and said honestly, “You should be speaking.”
I had to hold back a few tears.
What do you do when desire and potential are growing inside yourself, but you’re not sure how to let them out?
What do you do when there is a part of your identity you’re afraid to let others see except they can’t stop seeing it and neither can you?
Sometimes you hide in your bathroom and cry.
Sometimes you step up to the microphone and speak.
This past October (2014), I led a workshop where several librarians and I sat in a room together and discussed my writing and publishing journey using CreateSpace. I was transparent and they laughed about the honesty of my experience. I learned that day that as a speaker, “I’d rather keep it real than keep it perfect.” My friend framed this for me and I look at it every day on my kitchen counter.
I spoke at Hope Covenant where I went to church in college. I shared about my friend Kris and met a few people following my talk who live with cerebral palsy. One person in the audience whose life has been impacted by disability couldn’t say anything to me afterwards because my message had reduced him to tears. Speaking is often about letting your story intersect with the work God is already doing in people’s hearts.
Later in the month, I was asked to speak at a non-profit organization nearly an hour from my house. Upon arriving I was told that no one had signed up for my session. I drove home confused and frustrated, learning that not every opportunity that comes across your desk is a good one.
So, when November rolled around and I was preparing to speak at the University of Northwestern, St. Paul Chapel, I thought that perhaps I would simply reuse material that I had developed in October. But, as every good speaker knows, speaking is as much about listening as it is about talking. As I began to pause, remembering my life as an undergraduate, I scratched everything I had days before the presentation and developed a completely new talk—it turned out to be my favorite one I’ve ever given.
It didn’t make it on to iTunes, so I posted it to YouTube and included my slides. Its 34 minutes and I hope you’ll take time to enjoy it. I share my story, what it’s like to be stared at in public, and my deep convictions that skipping your morning coffee is a crime. I talk about the need to see each other, to take risks, and unpacked what we might learn about loving others with disabilities from a man in the Bible named Mephibosheth who was “crippled in both feet.”
Be the Bridge Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqKemLy-JG4
Be the Bridge Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FawcvQMoUk