A Hope For 2018

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It seems like we say this every December, but we can’t believe it’s almost a new year! 2017 was full of lessons—some hard, but all important—and we are beginning 2018 with a renewed sense of optimism about the future of our agency.

Like so many others, we are hoping 2018 will initiate a wave of justice in the world. Much has changed in the past twelve months, not just for our nation and our communities, but across the globe. More than ever, we are witnessing opportunities to be bold in our faith and in our optimism; not because our lives are without struggle or because the systems we live by are working perfectly, but because with hardship and change come growth and perseverance. We are a part of that work, a very crucial part, and so are you. Each of us has a very important role to play, and while it can be easy—particularly in this part of the world—to be convinced that we live in a vacuum, our ideas and choices impact the people around us.

Our greatest hope for this next year is that we will all learn to embrace that reality and put our influence to the best use for the most amount of good.

We hope you enjoy these last two days of 2017 and we wish you a beautiful—and impactful—2018!

 

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A Day in Athens at the Georgia Disability History Symposium

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On November 1st, I traveled from my home in Atlanta to the University of Georgia campus in Athens, where the Georgia Disability History Alliance was hosting their annual disability symposium. As the Social Media + PR Specialist for GCRC, I have the privilege of attending events like this and taking note of what I learn there so I can bring that knowledge back here and share it with you. If you’ve never been to a conference or day-long symposium, then you might not be aware that all too often they are little more than opportunities for people in positions of power to pat themselves on the back for what they see as a job well done, while those in more administrative or service roles wait and hope to gain something more than just a stomach full of tasteless, hotel chicken.

Lovely, right?

In my four years of working in human services, it has long since become clear that when people with disabilities are given the opportunity to speak for themselves and lead the way, we are all the better for it. And that is what I saw and experienced in Athens. As Dr. Beth Mount, one of the keynote speakers at the symposium, stated in her message, “Person-centered planning, which was once so pure, has become so clinical. These days, it is more about filling out paperwork than it is about working with the person to discover what drives them.”

In other words, when we lose the person, we lose everything.

In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to engage with and hear from a lively and passionate group of guests. The panel who sat for the Q+A session was intersectional at its best: a combination of various genders, races, ethnicities, religions, and abilities. Men and women from truly diverse backgrounds with widely varying perspectives who all stood for the most important things: representation, opportunity, and equality.

It is wonderful to hear from those who have worked so tirelessly in this field for decades, regardless of ability. But when I heard from the marginalized people who are most affected by our willingness (or lack thereof) to stand for and with them, it really struck hard at the deepest privilege within me, the place I sometimes still avoid because even though I work on staff with one of the most person-centered organizations in the state, some ableistic demons remain. It can be so easy to ignore those demons. But here is the crux of that truth: If it is easy for me, it is because I don’t have to confront them. I am not forced, day in and day out, to do battle with a society that still doesn’t see my true value. As an able-bodied, neurotypical person, I have a choice to not confront my privilege, a privilege that, by definition, is denied to many.

Parker Glick, the social media guru for Georgia’s Statewide Independent Living Council told symposium attendees that he is constantly asking the question, “Are you seeing this? If you are, how does it not matter to you?” This is the question we must be willing to ask—and answer honestly—for ourselves. Because when people with disabilities are spurned from employment opportunities, housing, intimate relationships, autonomy, and equality, it DOES matter. It DOES affect us, even if we don’t realize it.

A few weeks ago, I heard a woman I know only in passing declare that the Pride Parade in Atlanta was “taking equal rights too far.” Such a declaration is, in itself, a contradiction in terms. There is no such thing as taking equal rights too far. If every person’s rights have gone as far as they can, that is simply equality. Anything more, and one person has privilege while another doesn’t. That is the position we find ourselves in now. And that is the position that must change.

I am looking forward to continuing my work and partnering alongside people with disabilities. I am looking forward to being a part of the day equality has been taken as far as it can possibly go.

Are you?

Weekly Wrap-Up//05

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It has been a hard few weeks, hasn’t it? Hurricanes Harvey and Irma inflicting catastrophic damage across Texas and the Caribbean, earthquakes devastating Mexico, and the horrific attack on Las Vegas which resulted in the loss of 59 lives. Sometimes it can feel like the world is too wrong and we are too weak to do anything about it.

But that is not true.

We are powerful beyond belief. We can do hard things and we can do good things. In fact, it’s when the darkness falls that the light shines brighter. So to end this sad, troublesome week, we are sharing some of the best news we found from across the web: stories of hope, stories of generosity, stories of humor and joy. Stories of humanity at its best, at its truest.

Celebrities Share Awkward Puberty Photos to Raise Money for Puerto Rico Relief and the World Seems Right Again for a Moment

Blood Donors Line Up for Vegas

Employment for People with Disabilities Getting Congressional Attention

A Twitter Love Story

Happy Friday!

 

Weekly Wrap-Up // 03

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It’s that time again! Today, we’re sharing some of our favorite links from all around the web this week. Here’s hoping you enjoy them as much as we did.

Happy Friday!

Down Syndrome And The Stories We Tell

Stories matter. (You’re gonna need tissues for this one.)

Here’s What People With Disabilities Want You To Know

Listen up, y’all.

A Documentary Featuring Man With Autism Who Communicates Using Disney Characters Short-Listed For Academy Award

Well, it’s got OUR vote, anyway.

I Want To Set The Record Straight About Introverts

And all the ISTJ/ISFJ/INFJ/INTJ/ISTP/ISFP/INFP/INTPs said “AMEN.”

Pope Francis Encourages Moms To Breastfeed In The Sistine Chapel

Pope Francis: Doing The Lord’s Work.

Happy 2017!

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Now that what many viewed as a tumultuous 2016 has passed, we are looking to the new year with equal parts excitement and hope. It’s easy to get bogged down in what seems like the never-ending cycle of tragedy and loss, but there is always light in the darkness.

And how do we know that? Because we woke up this morning.

The sheer fact that you are alive today means that this moment has a purpose. Such an idea requires diligence and intentionality if it’s to be lived effectively—if we are to really embrace today for the gift that it is—and that can be a challenge. We rush from one thing to the next—checking tasks off our work, family, and social calendars—because in many ways it’s what we’re required to do. But how we schedule our lives determines how we live our lives.

Is it cliche to ask that in 2017 we learn how to live slowly? Perhaps.

But cliches ring true because they are rooted in truth.

Living slowly in 2017 is not asking you to stop being busy; it’s asking you to stop filling your lives with things that zap your energy, to stop saying yes to things when you should be saying no, and to cease the endless striving for more. There will always be tasks that require sacrifice and effort on our part, and they won’t always be enjoyable…but it’s time to ask ourselves: Are they beneficial? Are they useful? Are they meaningful? These are the things we want to spend our time doing in 2017.

There is important work to be done. There will always be important work to be done. But let’s get busy doing what matters, not running a race that doesn’t belong to us.

Cheers to you—and to all of us—this new year. May our days and our lives spark a new hope in our world.

Weekly Wrap-Up // 02

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Happy Friday! Today we’re hosting another weekly wrap-up, where periodically we share our favorite posts, articles, videos, and stories from around the web. We want to focus on the positive things that people are doing to impact their communities – whether that’s supported employment, equality for those with disabilities, giving, or speaking out for the voiceless in our society – and leave you ready for the weekend with a smile on your face. Which shouldn’t be too hard considering it’s Friday and the weekend is supposed to be GORGEOUS.

Mock CVS Store Helps Adults With Developmental Disabilities Train for Jobs

Much like our training center will do upon its completion, this store gives adults with developmental disabilities the chance to learn hands-on skills that will prepare them for working lives and greater independence. Right on!

March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month! 

Learn more about what this month means and why it’s so important.

5th-Graders Ditch Recess for Sign Language Club So They Can Chat With Deaf Classmate

Somebody take these kids out for ice cream, STAT.

Chick-Fil-A Has the Answer to Our Communication Problem

Chick-Fil-A has just introduced cell phone coops, cardboard boxes created for families to put their cell phones aside during meal time. And (BONUS!) if they complete the challenge, theyget free Ice Dreams. (Okay, tell the kids learning sign language they need to go to Chick-Fil-A.)

Did you like our post this week? Share it with your friends on social media using #GCRCWeeklyWrapUp! You can follow us on Twitter and Instagram @GCRCOfficial and Like us on Facebook, too. Have a great weekend!

#HowIBuildBridges Campaign

October

Happy Friday!

This month, we’re hoping to give our followers and our  readers a chance to share what they’ve been doing in their  communities to serve others. We’ve all done something in our  lives to serve others, and some of you are out there doing it  every single day. Kudos! And while serving others and giving  sacrificially is not something we should do in order to receive  accolades, it’s certainly nice to be appreciated. And that’s  what we’re doing now with our #HowIBuildBridges  Campaign.

#HowIBuildBridges is an opportunity for you to take a picture,  write a blog, or create a post on social media that lets us know how you are building bridges in your community. Are you a tutor or an after-school volunteer? Are you a Bible study leader or a friendly neighborhood trash picker-upper? Do you work in the soup kitchen on weekends? Perhaps you’ve offered to take your sister’s kids to school twice a week. Whatever it is, big or small, we want to know about it!

So, all through the month of October (and certainly beyond), we invite you to share your service with our agency by following us on Twitter and Instagram @GCRCOfficial and creating a post using the hash tag #HowIBuildBridges. Don’t forget to tag us! You can also Like us on Facebook and share your stories with us there.

Every act of service makes a big difference in our communities and in our world. Thanks for being a part of that change!