Whew!! The recent lengthy cold spell has certainly tested our mettle, with very low and even sub-zero temperatures, frozen water pipes and water mains, power outages, SKIL and other businesses and churches closing, being shut in or stranded and all this amid the continuing threat of the Coronavirus. The pressures of these and other problems have challenged us to endure the difficulties that sometimes pass our way.
And we have endured.
It gives me great reassurance to know that I am not alone in such struggles. I and all of you live life as part of a larger community of people. And if we struggle in challenging moments like those described above, we can also rejoice when beautiful life moments come.
Although the present snowfalls were pretty, it’s nice to see the snow melt, the too-cold temperatures fade and warmer air arrive. It makes me think of spring, of new beginnings and brings a sense of lightheartedness and relief. For while winter has its own special beauty and wonder, it can also bring feelings of being anxious, shut in and alone. And that was worse this year because of COVID-19.
I read a Facebook quote that goes something like this: “Anxiety is when a tear goes into your heart and seals in sadness.”
Wow. What a truth that is.
I hope you can look forward to spring and release the anxiety you may have in your hearts. I want to release the anxiety that has been in my heart. Focusing on living one day, sometimes one hour at a time, can help our attitudes to be more positive. And seeking to notice and savor the many precious moments we have in our lives can chase away many anxious moments.
A friend who lives in the country experienced this while enduring frozen water pipes and hauling water in jugs in the snow and terrible temperatures. As she passed some trees and bushes, she heard an unmistakable harbinger of spring: a robin. And then she saw it, solidly perched on a nearby branch, singing its cheery song.
What a gift on a teeth-chattering snow day. My friend’s step became lighter and her mood lifted because all of a sudden, the hope of spring had arrived for her and in a most unexpected way.
Especially when we become anxious or depressed, let us look for memorable moments in life like the surprise visit of a robin in winter, reminding us all that, even with bone-chilling cold, too much snow and a virus that none of us wants around, it is still a beautiful world. Sometimes, we just have to become more aware to notice its beauty.
The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) is disappointed by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) recent adoption of the Voluntary Voting System Guideline (VVSG) 2.0 Requirements. The adopted VVSG 2.0 requirements ignored the recommendations made by the disability community to:
- ensure accessible remote voting,
- prohibit segregated in-person voting,
- and require a reasonable voting system upgrade schedule so that voters with disabilities are not expected to use old, inaccessible ballot marking devices for decades to come.
As a result, VVSG 2.0 does not ensure a private and independent ballot for all voters in a non-discriminatory manner.
The extensive security requirements in VVSG 2.0 require the use of a voter-verified paper printed ballot. The requirements also limit remote voting to blank ballot delivery. These requirements create major barriers to ensuring accessibility for all in-person and remote voting options.
“While voters with disabilities are legally entitled to mark, verify and cast their ballots privately and independently, VVSG 2.0 will not ensure that right becomes a reality” said Kelly Buckland, Executive Director of NCIL. “The disability community has been promised for over a decade that paper ballots can and will be made fully accessible, yet we have not seen that happen. VVSG 2.0 does nothing to ensure fully accessible voting systems will be available in a timely manner, or that they will be deployed in a non-discriminatory way for in-person and remote voting. While NCIL supports the need for secure elections, we are deeply troubled by the EAC’s decision to not address the negative impact the VVSG 2.0 security requirements will have on accessibility. Voters with disabilities should not be asked to sacrifice their fundamental right to vote privately and independently in the name of security.”
The VVSG 2.0 will be used by voting system manufacturers to develop future products for the next decade or longer. Unfortunately, the new standards will not create meaningful improvement in voting accessibility. Instead, they will pave the way for segregation and discrimination against Americans with disabilities.
The word “dream” can evoke a variety of thoughts, feelings or memories. For many, it first refers to subconscious mental images experienced during different stages of sleep. For myself, since February is Black History Month, I often think of Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a Dream” speech and how it still inspires us. Historically, other great leaders and visionaries have long had dreams they have actualized to improve our world. The word has powerful positive and negative connotations for us all.
Before America became a country, our forefathers had a dream of a new nation where people could live in freedom. President Abraham Lincoln captured that dream well in the first sentence of his stirring Gettysburg Address. Before SKIL was founded, the late sisters Jeanette Pruitt and Marty Wooten realized that many people with disabilities in our area had major life needs not being met. The caring sisters had a dream of opening a local independent living center that would be a vital resource for meeting those needs. SKIL Resource Center, Inc., which today helps thousands of people with disabilities, is the direct result of Pruitt and Wooten’s dream.
Do you have dreams? Are they realistic, fantasy or almost impossible to achieve? Do you share your dreams with others or keep them to yourself? Do you leave them in your mind or sleep, or do you work to make them a reality? If the country you live in was built on a dream, and if the independent living center that serves you and thousands of others was founded on a dream, do you realize that dreams truly can become reality?
Dreams are doable! I encourage every one of you who reads this column to have dreams. A quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, as quoted in www.azquotes.com , says it best:
“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”
There is a famous quote that goes like this: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” The quote is often attributed to former President Abraham Lincoln, sometimes Robert Ingersoll. What is important about this wonderful quote is that it is true.
Power can be defined as: “ability to do or act…capability to do or accomplish something…political or national strength…to supply with electricity or other means of power…” — (From www.dictionary.com , ellipses mine re: punctuation). And, of course, there are additional definitions, both in other dictionaries and in the wide common usage of the word.
The word power often evokes an image or mindset of strength, of might. Have you ever thought about how you use power? Have you ever struggled to determine whether or not to utilize the personal power you possess? I have and such can be a most difficult decision, especially when running a vital organization like SKIL.
A friend of mine once wrote: “The greatest strength of the truly powerful is in the judicious, restrained use of that power.”
How true! For to use power wisely, one must have discernment. It can be very easy to speak, or to act, when you are angry or upset. It can be much harder to restrain yourself in the heat of the moment and realize that you should keep your mouth shut. Sometimes, choosing NOT to exert our power is the wisest choice, though such can also be the hardest choice.
A core management philosophy we seek to live by here at SKIL is that the effectiveness of a good leader is to not react. Sometimes, it is OK to sit back and let circumstances or problems play out instead of intervening and trying to fix them. And sometimes, it is necessary to act. Learning about this is good education regarding how to use power.
How do you use the life power that you have? Do you consider whether your words or actions will uplift or hurt those to whom you offer them? Are you able to decide when, or if, to act? Can you stop yourself from reacting when it would be better NOT to use your power?
I hope that, generally speaking, I use my power effectively, judiciously and fairly, erring on the side of mercy. It’s a continuous learning/growing effort, not a life accomplishment I have arrived at or perfected. I challenge each of you to learn and grow, too, about how to best use your life power as you forge ahead in 2021.
This week’s column is about unification. There has been a lot of news about our country’s divisions. It is time for us to start bringing people back together again.
People with disabilities have a long and sad history of being put aside and disregarded. We know that is an awful feeling, so let’s follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We can start our country’s unification process right here in our own communities. We need to look at what we have in common with our neighbors and fellow community members. We may have more in common than we realize.
Reach out to each other in kindness and hope it is met with kindness in return. When someone throws things up that you don’t agree with, don’t get angry. Try to overcome that feeling by changing the subject or agreeing to disagree. Look for opportunities to be kind. It is difficult for everyone to have the threat of the COVID virus hanging over our heads; no one needs all this hate on top of that.
Let’s all do our part to pull our communities together. As Martin Luther King, Jr., once said: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”