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Lions Roar : March 2014
MY REFLECTIONS END as the minivan arrives at my work- place. After two decades of working at The Rehabilitation Insti- tute of Chicago (RIC) as the director of the Women with Dis- abilities Center, I have moved on to work at the Center for Inde- pendent Living for People with Disabilities in Chicago. The first time I passed through the doors of RIC, I was wheeled on a gurney, accompanied by overwrought friends and my harrowed family. We arrived from Honolulu via jet to O’Hare. My initiation to rehab was as a sun-bronzed patient, adorned in pastel leis that offset my shaved, crushed head, blackened eyes, and missing teeth. I was not then a practitioner of mindful meditation or an advo- cate for victims of violence and people with disabilities. In May of 1980, I was simply one more patient on the brain-injury floor. That the darkness could eventually be transformed into light was unfathomable to my family and me when we first entered RIC. I see now that in situations like mine, most people need to become part of a larger “we” to remain vital. My involvement with the disability community, other victims of violence, and the Insight Center is a “we” that has done it for me. It is a truth that Pelé has known forever but has taken me decades to grasp: out of the dark- ness of violence and suffering emerges a new terrain—wider sys- tems of interdependence, deeper levels of transformation. When I leave the minivan, my driver bids me farewell. I wish her luck in finding a cheap travel package to Hawaii. Before my scooter enters the sliding glass doors of the build- ing, a shaft of sunlight halos the bold letters on the side of the building: “Access Living.” The doors open. I inhale a deep breath of gratitude and glide forward. In the distance, Pelé smiles. ♦ Once I accepted my many disabilities, there was a rainbow of possibilities. Systems of interdependence with other disabled people emerged.