As a teacher, I remind myself how difficult the holiday season can be for families who are struggling with different hardships. Christmas does not always equate with tradition or joy; family or gifts; mistletoe or egg nog; for some, including those with and without physical or cognitive disabilities, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve might as well be lumped together as one long hibernation waiting for spring’s arrival. Plus, the onset of winter can be dark and depressing anyway for people, depending on where you live. This is when I like to read one of my favorite poems of all time, “The Summer” by Mary Oliver. She writes:
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
So with 2017 closing, what will you do with your “one wild and precious life?” Does it bring you peace or find you joy? Given our political climate, stress of world events or the anxiety of everyday life, we must find the time to create some sustainable optimism needed to fuel the present. Disabled Sports USA celebrated its 50th anniversary of adaptive sports earlier this month at Ski Spectacular in Breckenridge, Colorado, a collaborative coaching and learning life changer. There were literally hundreds of injured Veterans and other disabled ski and snowboard enthusiasts, with their families, embracing the power of sport in overcoming challenges. Walking out onto the snow, a multitude of empty wheelchairs lined up with different sized prosthetic limbs leaning in every direction welcomed wives like me.
I had the honor of being present for a few days because my husband, Geoff, was being inducted into the U.S. Disabled Snow Sports Hall of Fame for making significant contributions to adaptive sports. Ski Spec, which is sponsored each year by The Hartford Insurance Company, brings together disabled soldiers and other individuals with their families, pairing them up with coaches and volunteers who have been trained by the Professional Ski Instructors of America and American Association of Snowboard Instructors.
Watching these folks on the snow was pretty awesome and reminded me of how far we still need to go to make sure every human being in our world has the help and assistance needed when we need it. Even today in almost 2018, I’m surprised when I meet people who have never heard of adaptive sports. Or, they don’t know how to connect with programs and people who can help them to truly live out their “one wild and precious life.” DSUSA is associated with over 120 different adaptive sports chapters representing more than 50 different sports all over the country. To find one near you to participate in or consider volunteering for, check out their list of chapters.
The DSUSA tag line is, “If I can do this, I can do anything!” For every athlete who wants to participate in life again through sport, there is a volunteer or team of volunteers and family members of those volunteers who take time to chat and connect with the family of the individual participating. Suddenly, there is a network of support that may or may not have previously existed. Sadly, there are places in the world where adaptive sports programs have not been born yet. If one doesn’t live where you do, then consider starting a chapter of your own.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and best wishes for 2018 from our family to yours. In the words of Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Heather Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 7 and 6. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.