Thanksgiving…a tribute to Veterans and Heros

November, the month before Christmas, is affectionately known as Movember where a guy can sport a mustachioed look and feel confident about it. November is the month where the days are short and bright and the nights are long and chilly.

November is the month we honor Veterans tasked with protecting our country. Society salutes their sacrifices and courage in parades across the country, in the black and white photo’s of grandparents and parents in uniform and classmates returned from battles afar.

This week, friends and family gather from here and there, both grateful to have had another year with loved ones. Each enjoying the opportunity to slow down just a bit of appreciation for all that we have, both large and small.

Rituals such as Veteran’s Day parades and Thanksgiving celebrations help our communities shine beautiful and demonstrate the Brilliance of Community in Action.  They refresh and invigorate us in a common purpose, often healing our wounds, addressing our differences, cheering our victories and sharing our setbacks.

Rituals teach our youngsters powerful lessons about inclusion, appreciation and how to continue family legacies. These November rituals prepare the heart for future blessings.

This November, let’s celebrate the everyday heroes who deliver the mail on time, open the door to let a wheelchair pass, and honor the everyday heroes who shape the future of those who are differently abled.  

Mikelle and I celebrate the time Lisa Manly and Judy Barclay of Full Life Ahead Foundation and the time they offered Mikelle the chance to swim with a dolphin named Ivan.

It was in Panama City Lisa, Mikelle and I stood in water up to our shoulders at a local aquarium. Together, Lisa and I held Mikelle in our arms. We coaxed her arms stiffened by the cool seawater as Ivan swam close enough to kiss Mikelle’s lips.

Her hands felt Ivan’s silky rubber-like skin, they stroked his bulbous nose and her spirit felt his extraordinary kindness in his large dark eyes as he moved his graceful eight-foot long body around hers.

That day, Judy and Lisa were everyday heroes. They pried open Mikelle’s world, a world tied to wheelchairs and ramps, iPads and physical limitations, a world surrounded by the Rocky Mountains.

As Mikelle, Lisa and I played with Ivan, other visitors on the benches surrounding the pool watched Mikelle’s interaction with a being strange, foreign and overwhelming to her. I could see them watch us. I could feel their hearts open as Mikelle pried open their idea of normal.

After the swim, we met the photographer in the gift shop. We had to have a souvenir of this extraordinary day. The photo packages were expensive, and our budget limited. As we tried to find the one photo we could afford, a man walked up to us. Florida had seeped into his veins, and he wore it in his bleached blonde curly hair and tanned face. As he looked at us, his brilliant blue eyes teared up.

He said, “My family and I watched the courage your daughter had to get in the water and swim with that dolphin.”

He cleared his throat, emotion welled up from his heart and he slapped a crisp one hundred dollar bill on the counter and told the clerk, “Get this little lady whatever she wants.”  

As we thanked him, he turned around, hugged his little ones and walked away—an everyday hero.

Take a minute and thank the everyday heroes in your life. Breathe in the appreciation of the support you receive from a neighbor, a friend or a case manager.  

And, finally, take a minute to look in the mirror. You are something to be celebrated. Keep fighting for full inclusion, amazing lives lived, and let us all praise how we are all differently abled.

Lastly, know that two women nestled against the arms of the Rocky Mountains are grateful for each and every one of you at Full Life Ahead as veterans of inclusion.