28 November 2010

"You Get Proud by Practicing" - In Memory of Laura Hershey

Laura Hershey was a Colorado-based writer, poet, activist, consultant, traveler, friend, partner, and mother.  She passed away on November 26, 2010 after a brief illness.  She is widely known for her work with people with disabilities, but she was also a passionate fighter for social justice.  She wore shirts that proclaimed her pride in being a person with a disability.
Photo credit: Denver Post file photo.
Both people with disabilities and Deaf and hard of hearing people too often feel isolated or ashamed of being different because of social systems and attitudes that have made them feel that way.  How can one get proud amidst all this?

You Get Proud by Practicing
© 1991 by Laura Hershey

If you are not proud

For who you are, for what you say, for how you look;
If every time you stop
To think of yourself, you do not see yourself glowing
With golden light; do not, therefore, give up on yourself.
You can get proud.

You do not need

A better body, a purer spirit, or a Ph.D.
To be proud.
You do not need
A lot of money, a handsome boyfriend, or a nice car.
You do not need
To be able to walk, or see, or hear,
Or use big, complicated words,
Or do any of those things that you just can’t do
To be proud. A caseworker
Cannot make you proud,
Or a doctor.
You only need more practice.
You get proud by practicing.

There are many many ways to get proud.

You can try riding a horse, or skiing on one leg,
Or playing guitar,
And do well or not so well,
And be glad you tried
Either way.
You can show
Something you’ve made
To someone you respect
And be happy with it no matter
What they say.
You can say
What you think, though you know
Other people do not think the same way, and you can
keep saying it, even if they tell you
You are crazy.

You can add your voice

All night to the voices
Of a hundred and fifty others
In a circle
Around a jailhouse
Where your brothers and sisters are being held
For blocking buses with no lifts,
Or you can be one of the ones
Inside the jailhouse,
Knowing of the circle outside.
You can speak your love
To a friend
Without fear.
You can find someone who will listen to you
Without judging you or doubting you or being
Afraid of you
And let you hear yourself perhaps
For the very first time.
These are all ways
Of getting proud.
None of them
Are easy, but all of them
Are possible. You can do all of these things,
Or just one of them again and again.
You get proud
By practicing.

Power makes you proud, and power

Comes in many fine forms
Supple and rich as butterfly wings.
It is music
when you practice opening your mouth
And liking what you hear
Because it is the sound of your own
True voice.

It is sunlight

Wen you practice seeing
Strength and beauty in everyone,
Including yourself.
It is dance
when you practice knowing
That what you do
And the way you do it
Is the right way for you
And cannot be called wrong.
All these hold
More power than weapons or money
Or lies.
All these practices bring power, and power
Makes you proud.
You get proud
By practicing.

Remember, you weren’t the one

Who made you ashamed,
But you are the one
Who can make you proud.
Just practice,
Practice until you get proud, and once you are proud,
Keep practicing so you won’t forget.
You get proud
By practicing.

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