Celebrating Talent and “Sparks” of the Divine with Disabilities

Credit: Pixabay Commons

Credit: Pixabay Commons

In Honor of the Special Needs Community and to Evelynn, a very special Swainson’s Lorikeet.

For the past 11 years,  the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA has hosted the Festival of Human Abilities, celebrating the creative and inspiring spirit of people with disabilities.

This weekend, we showed up to cheer and enjoy amazing talented people with various disabilities like Dat Nguyen, a world music guitarist who is blind, Kodi Lee, a singer who has autism and is blind. Children fawned over the service dogs from Canine Companions for Independence.

Others gifted participants displayed skills as adaptive SCUBA divers, Hip Hop wheelchair dancers, painters with wheelchair wheels and we loved the exquisite dance performances by Bethune Infinite Dreams and the stirring rendition of You Raised Me Up  by Josh Groban by Love in Motion Choir in sign language, storytelling, crafts, visual artists from the local community, Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Center (awarded the Aquariums’ Glen McIntyre Heritage Award for their dedication) and so much more!

We explored sea life exhibits,  amazing creatures like Freshwater Sawfish, floating Sea Otters (who keep a stone on their bellies and use it as a tool to smash open shellfish for lunch), breathtaking coral reefs and anemones, especially the Fragile Pink Urchin that is too pretty to someday die! I wondered how someone as intelligent as Woody Allen could call God an under-achiever when all around us, creation reminds us of His manifold wisdom.

Rainbow_lorikeet

Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Then a lone bird, Evelynn with a plumage as bright as an in-your-face rainbow, an artist’s dream palette caught my eye. She perched on the branch of a shrub away from the non-stop hustle of the aquariums’ free-flight aviary.  I say “hustle” because if you’ve never been propositioned by a bird,  you’ll want to check out this slick crew at the aquarium.

The popular birds are Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) a species of Australasian parrot found in Australia.  According to the staff, the parrots all show different personality traits – Shadow likes to play with guests and finger wrestle. Tulip is a popular gal because she loves to hang out with the bird keepers. Piper loves to vocalize and play with his food bowls.

Most of the birds can talk and say words such as thank you, hello, come ‘ere, watcha doin’, hi, and call out their names. Some can even blow kisses, the slickest of them can unbutton and re-button your shirt! Why? Because you typically walk into the aviary with a cup of nectar and they’ve gotta have some!

Back to Evelynn, I was curious – why she was out there? The staff explained that she was born with defective eye sight either due to genetics or because her mother didn’t incubate her egg long enough. That means she sees things as blurry shadows, bumps into moving objects and as a result gets very nervous and anxious when there’s a crowd. As we were talking , Evelynn puffed and fluffed her deep blue with a greenish-yellow nuchal collar and deep green back feathers, getting comfortable on her tiny perch, chirping away and showing off to our little group.

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Credit: Pixabay Commons

I was so moved – a special needs bird displayed at a festival celebrating the ‘sparks’ of the divine. We see people with disabilities and special needs all around us but they are typically misunderstood, misjudged and treated without empathy. If we realize that the core issues they face can be traced to unavoidable circumstances or innate, hereditary issues we would be kind.  Inclusion and consideration, not pity goes a long way to make them feel valued.

I am thankful for the people, families, organizations and nations that provide care, hope, support, advocate and protect the rights of people with disabilities. We are all our brothers’ keepers. By the way, wouldn’t it be amazing if we asked to see the special needs animals at our zoos and theme parks? I am personally going to start doing that.

If you are ever at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, ask for Evelynn the special bird who is blind and sees shadows and play peek-a-boo with her. It’s her favorite game, but shh…don’t tell her its therapy.

Update: I got some amazing news…I asked about her and the very nice people at the Aquarium confirmed her name and I learnt she has a brother, Kyle! How great is that?  So now you have to look out for Evelynn & Kyle.

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Unconditionally in Love and Relentless – The Christmas Story

Christmas Story

Love makes people do strange things. What would you do for love and where would you draw the line?

Introducing his recent Christmas film – The Christmas Candle, best-selling author Max Lucado tells this story – His daughter was tinkering on a grand piano one breezy afternoon at home, serenading her pet hamster perched on the piano’s case. Apparently bored and oblivious to the affection directed at it, the tiny hamster lost his footing and fell right into the strings and got stuck between the treble and bass bridge.

If Max’s daughter was inspired by the Hamster on a Piano craze, she clearly didn’t consider the risks – her beloved pet could be crushed between the pedal rods or sliced by the strings to the sound of a G chord. The alarmed little girl lifted her feet off the pedals, stopped playing immediately and started calling out for help and to her squirming pet, (Let’s just call it – Hammy) “Come on Hammy…wiggle out, go right!”

A Christmas StoryBut Hammy was petrified! Some strings do not let you escape easily, and so with each wiggle,  he slid further down into the dark pit belly of the piano. “Dad Hero” – Max came charging in to the rescue, but little Mr. Hammy wasn’t getting the message.
They both tried coaxing, then banging on the sides and shouting to get Hammy to let go of his desperate grip on the strings.

Finally, Max got some tools out to dismantle the grand piano. He got the off the top board and realized he needed specialized tools to get the other screws out. Frustrated at the look of the despair on his daughter’s face, he thought – If only I could become a hamster, I could get in there and help Hammy out.

Would you give up your ability to speak, create and be fully human to save a lesser animal you loved? If your pet got stuck somewhere and you had special powers, would you consider becoming, say a dog or cat, knowing that the terrified pet would most likely trust and follow its kind to safety?

Hammy will always trust a fellow hamster over a high-sounding, booming, authoritarian voice – even if it is the voice of its owner. This mirrors the essence of the Christmas story – when God became one of us.

The story of how a loving God saw His children petrified by the daily grind of life, beaten to pulp by hopelessness and fearful of definite death. He knew that if He would come down from His immeasurable glory and majesty and become a man, He could completely feel and be touched with our struggles, fears and pain, more importantly, he could show us the way, help us see that He’s got our back. How else do you understand someone else’s struggles, except by empathy and by walking in their shoes?

Sadly, the fantasy of Santa Claus is barely adequate. He is “here” once a year. The real gift, however has arms outstretched all through the year and for a lifetime. He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother and is totally committed to us with fierce, unconditional love.

For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but (He) was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Heb. 4:15

A Christmas StoryOverlooked and lowly shepherds received a very strange birth announcement. An even stranger star in the sky led kings to a baby not born by a renown midwife, but by a medically inept carpenter and his virgin bride in a smelly manger – instead of Zen music, perceptive goats, rams, sheep and  horses were stunned that the divine birth just happened in their filthy shack.

This Christmas season, we try to replicate love in our minuscule ways by giving gifts, helping the less fortunate and spreading Christmas cheer. But every one of us has a line in the sand that we would not cross in the name of love. Thankfully, God is love. The very best of heaven –  Jesus…our Emmanuel came with lavish, extravagant love.

Back to Hammy, Max called for professional assemblers to dismantle the grand piano and while they were waiting for their arrival, Hammy got weary or hungry or both and  finally let go of the stings and crawled back up to the music rack. His little nose twitching and dusty. Yay!

I read this  joke about how different people typically respond to others (in this case – Hammy) in the pit:

A Christmas StoryThe Pharisee says, “You deserve to be in the pit.” The Catholic says, “You need to suffer while you’re in the pit.” The Baptist says, “If you’d get saved, you wouldn’t have fallen into the pit.” The Charismatic says, “Just confess  -“I’m not in the pit.” The mathematician says, “Let me calculate how you fell into the pit.” The IRS agent says, “Have you paid taxes on that pit?” The optimist says, “Things could be worse.” The pessimist says, “Things will get worse.”

The Lord  Jesus doesn’t waste time theorizing how we get into these pits. He just reaches out and gets us out when we ask, and sometimes even when we don’t.

Thankfully, Hammy had an owner –  a pet lover who considered becoming a hamster just to help him out. That’s what I am thankful for this Christmas…my God is not far off, unyielding, judging and demanding. He came near and stays close, never mad at me –  regardless of what I do or didn’t do. His love is stable and relentless.

With no fancy words or phrases, I pray you’ll invite the Lord in and unwrap the real gift of His unrelenting, unconditional love.

Merry Christmas!

Man with Womb

Man with Womb

Today, only wall sockets

are bold enough to stare back.

Faithful like peep holes who warn

of shadows, passing and still.

My strong thighs suggest –

you not trespass.

Savage with glossy lips to control the

pride. You think you do…I know.

I am the striding force

I am the knowing wink

My words escape, swiftly, empowered.

Like cracked up, jacked up clay, pulverized

into the pieces my mind envisions.

Draped in clarity, beneath these bars of

stinking flesh, I am neither one of

man or woman

Wisdom extended a womb, so heavy

it crushed my heart.

Cherubim with flaming swords on guard

against the naked returning into it.

Stronger than pulsating biceps,

Pulled taut and steamed by the

heat between strong thighs, I rise.

This day, I am the strength bearing

womb and the wounds.

Ama

All For The Perfect Name

 

I could have called myself

Maya — माया māyā

Supernatural being of wisdom

and power, an unfathomable plan,

a detachment from incomplete

fragments of reality, like a brief,

disturbed drop of water from

unbounded waves. How I could

attain to an illusion that both

conceals & pierces the veil?

I certainly had the consonants &

enough a’s

I had accumulated enough hurt,

pain and joy, I could pull this off–

and I had read “Why The Caged

Bird Sings”

With friends who thought the same.

Call yourself by what you love,

the presence of a phenomena

created within loins and

indelibly rented hearts –

Wife of, Husband of

Mother of, Father of

Child of, Friend of –

But it’s never enough,

we are both the hurt and

the healers colliding.

I denied these blanks –

they are the enemy.

I denied the power of

another’s election.

Once I changed to Eileen,

that sadness did not salve

the stinging.

Poll the candidates.

Roll the morsels off:

Aya, Suama

Mayak, Amayak

Ayak, Suam.

This is all so bad, the

heavy taste like lead,

weighing down –

down

my tongue.

Hands behind his back

he  leaned forward –

a giant ear.

Over my most sacred place –

my mind,

he  whispered a name

that drove me wild, bucking

to first find

love, then find me.

denominate –

I called myself,

Beloved.

Everything changes your life –

A name can do that to you.

Ama

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