This past May, I flew to Salisbury, Maryland for a weekend visit with our dear Debbi. My mission was to soak in as much inspiration from her as possible. I also planned to put some elbow-grease into video taping the whole process. (The last time I took a video, I thought you could turn the camera on its side like you can with a still camera. It turns out, the video comes out sideways if you do that ;p)
As I was waiting for my flight to take off from Dallas Fort Worth, one of the other passengers asked me if I was a dancer, because he thought I carried myself like one. And then a young man, dressed like a hippie, asked me if I was a musician, because the long black box that held the camera equipment looked like an instrument case. On the airplane, I was sitting next to a lady whose sourpuss expression was enough to pickle cucumbers. I was almost afraid to sit next to her, for fear of catching the grouchy germ. It turns out that my seatmate was dealing with a delinquent teenage daughter and a sister dying from cancer; by the time we got off the plane, her frown had turned upside down, and we left as friends.
When I told Debbi about my airplane mini-adventures, she laughed out loud.
“See?” she said. “People only pay attention to your appearances. At least you were smart enough to take the time to see through them.”
I guess what Debbi said had truth to it. To other people, our physical appearances do often supercede our inner beings, and we perpetuate that by doing the same to others, because the surface is the first and easiest thing we encounter. But what she said also bothered me because as she laughed, the normal waves of joy were slated with cynicism. And bitterness.
It’s because too much of the world is so caught up in physical appearance that they fail to give the people behind those appearances a second glance. I understand what Debbi means. Debbi has Multiple Sclerosis, and she thinks she wears it like a coat—that she is perceived first and foremost as someone with a disability. Because of that, she lets herself be swallowed up by her appearance. Ironically, it is Debbi who is a shining example of what really should be. Because despite what she thinks about how other people see her, the truth is that when you first meet Debbi, she is 100 percent fierce light. Her eyes twinkle when she talks to you, her voice rings with laughter, and her personality is just. so. contagious. Her walker is only an after thought.
But once you get to know Debbi, her sadness is also palpable. Because so much of the world has landed on shallow waters, she is drowning in her physical disability, and doesn’t see in herself, the spark that touches the rest of us.
Regardless of what our outer being looks like, there is always a less noticeable story behind it. The latter, whether positive or negative, can be something that weighs us down, or something we churn into a quality, invisible to the eye but not to the feel. If my seatmate hadn’t radiated a kindness that was obviously surpressed by her situation, I never would have talked to her, and she would have left just another person, angry on the surface but torn and lonely on the inside.
People are complicated. They are more than what they seem. This is an obvious statement you’ve heard before, right? In face, you probably wish others saw you fully for who you are. So why do we, too often, only look on the surface? I think we’re capable of much more. Don’t you?
My two day visit with Debbi passed by too quickly, but my mission was accomplished. I had come for inspiration and I had received it. So much so, that Debbi became the star in the mini-documentary I created for a new Live Wright program: Recovery from the Past.
Recovery from the Past begins with the documentary of Debbi Wright, carrier of Multiple Sclerosis and fighter for life. And it will continuethrough YOUR stories. How many people do we know who have undergone a lumpectomy or mastectomy surgery, or chemo and radiation therapy? I know four people at work who have; I have witnessed their fear, emotional drainage, physical fatigue, and even death. We can’t even imagine what it would be like in their shoes, in Debbi’s shoes. But what we can do is to record their lives and perseverance as a form of inspiration, to us, to others, and even to themselves. We can help each other get to that point of “Mind over Matter,” by spreading proof that in a world where too much goes bad, hope still lives.
If you are someone or know someone whose story deserves to have an audience, contact us at email@example.com, subj: Recovery from the Past. We can help you to document in any format you’d like or guide you through the process. Regardless, it’s most important that what you have to say is said.