Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Everyone Counts

This week is Everyone Counts week at Immaculate Heart of Mary, a local catholic school in Indianapolis. The focus of the week is to educate the students about people with disabilities. I was asked by one of the coordinators to speak to the 8th grade students about my story and experiences.

Yesterday I spoke to the students in the church at IMH. I'm happy to report that I did not burst into flames upon entering the church! (That would have been quite ironic!) I sat in the priest's chair (again checking for spontaneous flames) just below the altar. As the students filed in their teachers told them that it was alright if they wanted to sit on the floor to get closer to me. To my surprise most of the girls chose to sit on the floor while most of the boys headed for the pews! (While this is not important, I choose to mention it because it was exactly the opposite of what I expected.)

When I had arrived I was a little concerned about how much detail I should go into with the students about my injuries. I spoke about this with the coordinators before the students came in and we decided that I should be candid with them about what my condition was after the accident. As I spoke about what had happened, and what my condition was when I woke up, I watched their faces to see the reactions. I saw looks of shock, sympathy, and in some cases a little touch of fear. As I continued to speak the looks on their faces changed as they became more comfortable with what I was telling them.

I enjoy speaking immensely, but it's much more fun when there are questions, and this audience did not disappoint! The coordinators mentioned that, based on previous speakers, the students might not ask many questions. However, after I had gotten through the initial part of the story first one student raised a hand, then another, and then there was a flood of questions!

The questions make the speech much more enjoyable for me and (I think) for the audience. Because I know that they are interested and that they are getting what they want to learn from the experience. One danger though is that sometimes the questions can steer the conversation off course. After I had spoke for about an hour the realization hit me that we had spent the whole time talking about me! (Which is, of course, one of my favorite topics!) Remember, the focus for the week is "everyone counts". Knowing that we were running out of time, one of the coordinators came to my rescue and announced that we would only take two more questions. Once those questions were answered I was able to steer the conversation back to the main point.

It was important to me that the students learn about people with disabilities as opposed to Jeremy with a disability. To wrap up I took the opportunity to stress to the students that it's ok to ask questions. That it's alright to offer assistance as long as they are not forcing their assistance on someone else. One point that I wish I had stated, but I hope they gathered from the conversation, is that people with disabilities can be functional members of society. Of course, my final point to them, was that in our lives we will all be faced with a disability (whether it is our own, or the disability of a loved one) and that a disability should not be seen as a restriction, but rather a situation to be embraced and to adapt to it to move forward with life rather than giving up.

Jeremy-I wanted you to know that the parent of the IIHM boys that I was telling you about told me how touched they were by your speech. She was impressed because they came home and told her all about it-apparently in great detail. She said it was so wonderful because they often don't say much about their day-they are 8th grade boys after all. You made quite an impression!
So, in summary, you made an positive impression on 8th graders, educated students on relating to those with disabilities ... and all that without bursting into flames! Sounds like a success to me! :-D

Jeremy..... Of course the girls wanted to sit close to you. You are a right handsome fellow.
So glad that you are giving the youth a chance to meet someone who has, with much hard work, overcome much in the way of hardships.
Love, Lilla

Glad to see your humor and spirit are still intact. And I'm glad you got my letter. Miss talking to you.


ps Happy early birthday
Again, you have lifted the spirits of everyone that comes into contact with you...constantly amazing me!! I got your voice message and I am always apologizing to you about not getting back in touch with you. Someday I'm gonna surprise you..I often ask myself "what if.." I don't want to spend my life asking those questions I want to live my life saying "now what..". Those kids were forever touched by you Jeremy. I can see a book deal in your future!!!
Have a great weekend and yes, I will call you :-)
Love ya,
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