It is so important for us to recognize the profound impact our language has on others. Our choice of words can encourage, energize and inspire; or they can discourage, exclude and deflate.
We experience the impact in our work, our homes, our schools and our personal relationships. Consciously or unconsciously, what we say and how we are spoken to influence our ability to succeed or fail as individuals, as a community.
I have seen children raised in the most difficult of circumstances grow to be resilient leaders due in part to the positive role models in their lives who focused on strengths. I have seen flourishing workplaces where employees excel because they are working in a nurturing environment where management and colleagues understand the value of positive reinforcement. And I have seen people who do, think and say things differently with confidence and fortitude because the opinions, actions and yes, words, of those in their lives have fostered a sense of belonging, understanding, and ability.
For as long as I have been an adult, through all the many years that I have worked with disability related organizations, that I have simply lived and experienced relationships, I have disliked the words ‘mental retardation’. The words have a visceral effect on me. It just sounds derogatory and belittling to me, perhaps because of the horrible feeling I got in the pit of my stomach when I heard the abbreviation, ‘retard’. That same ugly feeling I get when I hear words referred to other groups of people aimed at knocking them down.
I recognize that to many, those words ‘mental retardation’ may conjure no negative or positive meaning. They are simply six syllables taught to describe a population.
Diana Mairose, an advocate support advisor for Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services, has been tirelessly working to change the vocabulary used to refer to people with disabilities. She is the major reason why the word ‘handicapped’ was removed from the blue accessibility signs locally and statewide. In 2009, she helped remove the words ‘mental retardation’ from the State of Ohio; however, not in the Ohio Revised Code…until last week. (You can read more about her in this post.)
In front of about 100 people – including Diana – Governor John Kasich signed into law Ohio House Bill 158, which formally removes the MR phrase in the Ohio Revised Code, replacing it with the more respectful ‘intellectual disability’.
“It was a very honored occasion,” Diana told me. “I am really happy that the people in government can see how it will show respect to so many people we serve. Mental retardation are words we need to stop using all together.”
Now it is our turn, to make a conscious decision to stop using words that discourage, exclude and deflate people. And, instead, use our language to rise people up, energize, include and inspire them.
When we do that, we all will benefit.
If you have never visited 1410 Main Street in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine, I encourage you to stop by. Inside is a space where imaginations and talents are showcased, where the world can be seen from the eyes of artists from diverse perspectives.
And, it is that diversity that sets this place apart from other art exhibition halls. Artists whose work is shown at Art Beyond Boundaries Gallery may have vision impairments or they may have near perfect eye sight. They may use a wheelchair or walk with their two legs. They may have a cognitive delay or mental illness or may be the person who got all As in school.
The Gallery began in December of 2005 when the Center for Independent Living Options (CILO), a nonprofit organization that breaks down barriers and promotes inclusion and independence of people who have disabilities, opened what was to be a one time show downtown as part of the Fine Arts Sampler Weekend. The show featured pieces from regional people within our community of different abilities. That one show turned into another, which turned into another and eventually led to CILO opening a permanent exhibition venue two years later and hiring James (Jymi) Bolden as its director.
Art Beyond Boundaries’ mission is to promote awareness and understanding of artists with disabilities. The Gallery has five or six shows a year that run six to eight weeks each. Its annual exhibit called Changing Perception features the work of those with and without disabilities.
“We are about leveling the playing field so that artists can have a mainstream experience,” Jymi told me. “We do not exhibit disability. What is on our walls is ABILITY. It just so happens that the artists who created the pieces may or may not be experiencing different circumstances.”
One of the great influencers in Jymi’s own life and his passion for photography was Melvin Grier, a talented photo journalist who worked for The Cincinnati Post for 35 years. And opening this coming Friday – March 25, 2016 (with a free reception from 6 to 9 pm) – is an exhibition of Melvin’s compelling work called White People: A Retrospective. It was first shown at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center in 2011. Purchased photos at the Art Beyond Boundaries show running through May 13, 2016, will benefit the Avondale Youth Council.
Please come back to my blog this week to learn more about Melvin.
Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward,
safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you. ~ Princess Diana
Cincinnati, it seems, is a growing hotbed for something truly beautiful. People are gathering to find opportunities to help others, just because they can. These people are part of a movement that is called #KindFlash and their impact is becoming increasingly far reaching.
The group that has grown to more than 1200 volunteers just held its one year anniversary clothing drive. With more than 30 drop off venues, they collected 2666 hats, gloves, scarves and socks (plus 1118 other items such as ear warmers, coats, snacks, etc) for a grand total of 3,784 donations distributed to people in need throughout 51 Greater Cincinnati neighborhoods.
The whole idea is to spread kindness, without any expectations for return (except of course, the warm feeling inside of knowing that you have made a difference in someone else’s life). Volunteers folded donations into clear ziploc bags with a note attached letting people know the items are free, and those bags are placed on park benches or sidewalks, tied to phone poles, or other places of high traffic. Many volunteers have said that no sooner were they walking away, they noticed those bags disappearing.
That Drive is just one act they are doing. Each month they come up with a different idea for impacting a different neighborhood and/or group of people – or non-human animals. Most of the time, they are events where volunteers have an opportunity to get to know the organization and individuals involved. This month they are collecting kitty litter and cat food for Ohio Alleycat Rescue. In March, they will be visiting, getting to know and helping to fundraise for The Cincinnati Dragons, a youth wheelchair basketball team.
#KindFlash, originally known as Random Acts of Kindness, began about a year ago after Liz Wu had seen similar ideas in other cities on the internet. In a February snow storm, as she was huddled by her heater Liz got to thinking about the people who didn’t have a heater to curl up next to. She saw a photo with a news article of people collecting items for the homeless, and decided to strong arm her friends into helping.
There was a post on Facebook, and the next thing Liz new, the Cincinnati movement had begun. Almost overnight it mushroomed with dozens joining in on their event. They organized drop off location and began putting word out that they were collected warm clothing. Donations began pouring in. Within ten days, more than 100 volunteers were involved and pulled together over 2000 items to distribute to more than 35 neighborhoods.
“We want to demonstrate how easy it is to make a difference in your community, and see that it doesn’t take much time or resources. People can do most things on their own,” Liz told me. “With #KindFlash, it is neat to see how a lot of times there is some relationship building between volunteers and an organization we help, or recipients of that organization.”
Everyone of all ages is welcome to join. If you would like to get involved, they have a Facebook group here.
Have you registered for the upcoming A Night of CINspiration, new events of Good Things Going Around? Space is limited, so register today!
This is such a wonderful story. 96-year-old Fern Schurr and 83-year-old Paul Tredo are proof that you are never too old to fall in love and live happily ever after.
“We used to eat meals together all the time. Then suddenly, there she was, and it became evident that she was the one I wanted to be with,” Fern told KCTV. “I love him because he is a gentleman. He is kind.”
And with that, she said ‘I do’.
For the full story, click here.
Kimberly Holmes Wiggins of FOX19 did a beautiful story last night that is a reminder to us all about the power of our words and actions. The story was about ‘saying something nice’. You can see in her package the difference between the reaction she received from people downtown and students on the University of Cincinnati campus. It gives you food for thought, that’s for sure. Why do you think there was such a difference?
One thing is for certain, you can see how much fun it is for not just the person saying something nice but for those around to hear the words also.
Spreading good things and kindness is so simple. A positive word, a smile. That is all it takes to brighten someone else’s world. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all consciously be mindful to look to find the strengths and gifts of everyone with whom we know or meet?
We CAN. It begins with ME and YOU. Let’s get it started!
(Please click on photo to view Kim’s story on FOX19)
Do you have your Good Things Pledge certificate?
The Good Things Pledge is simply a reminder of the power you’ve already got within yourself to see the good and make a positive contribution. Everyone who officially takes the Pledge and gives me their information will receive a personalized certificate. Just visit the Good Things Pledge page on this blog.