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My Journey Filled with Inspiration

posted Jul 18, 2015, 1:40 PM by Ezra Lockhart
As I reflect on what were my influences and the inspiring acts which contribute to my desire to aid individuals who experience disability I find that there are many. I did not until just now put majority of the pieces together. I also acknowledge that my journey is still in progress and await further inspirations. In me there is an overwhelming sense that society is missing out. The potential for contributions and enhancements to everyone's quality of life is real when we consider people who have been historically stigmatized and marginalized, what they can offer to all of society, and how to eliminate stigma and the omission of people who are thought of as different.

My Brother's Struggle (ADHD & LD)
When I was in grade school my mother was a special education substitute teacher who worked throughout Honolulu School District in Hawaii. My brother struggled with ADHD and a math learning disability. Our mother made it clear that medication was not right for her son and worked endlessly using behavioral interventions to aid my brother as a paraprofessional and concerned parent. He graduated high school without once being medicated thanks to her support.

My Foster Cousins
Growing up our home was opened to foster children. What I find most interesting is I never fully recognized or qualified this. I thought it was a cultural practice. We had many children coming in and out of our home which we considered cousins. These experiences solidified in me a overarching value and sense of community. Then when we moved to Alaska baby Nicole, a newborn affected by prenatal exposure to crack cocaine, was placed with us it clicked for me. We only had one more foster brother, Toby, after that while in Alaska. He unfortunately died shortly after reunification with his mother. 

My Mother's Struggle (Diabetes & Blindness)
Later in life, nearly 10 years ago, my mother became blind. She acquired gestational type-2 diabetes while carrying me and was insulin dependent from that point on. She developed diabetic neuropathy after I became an adult. She was involved in a car accident which partial detached her retinas. In combination with her diabetes her condition worsened leaving her fully blind from diabetic retinopathy. I was 24 years old and lived over 700 miles away when I received the call from the hospital. She was recently divorced, had no local natural supports, and I was the closest relative. I moved back to take care of her full-time. Working with her day and night without disability benefits drained my savings and ultimately led me to leave the IT industry.

Life of Service
As a result, I entered into a life of service. Initially I sought to education myself about disability support services for I could better aid my mother. I had to learn to navigate local health and social services in order to get us the help she was supposedly warranted. It took nearly two years and most of my savings to get her connected to services. Afterwards, I could not imagine my life without helping others. In this I found a career.

Fulfillment from Selflessness
I feel a sense of fulfillment when I recall the many individuals who experience a wide range of disabilities who I have assisted over more than a decade. 
At the height of my direct care practice, I worked as much as 125-hours weeks in non live-in positions managing multiple clients with disabilities. I would wake up and get ready a household of three wheelchair-bound adolescences taking care of all their personal hygiene and feeding. I would prepare them for their school day then head off to the next client. I would deliver in-home support for youth on the autistic spectrum which usually constituted ABA tutoring. Later in the day, I would meet a high school student at his school and ride with him back to his house and assist him with activities of daily living and prepare him to engage the community. I would plan outings and support him in the community based on socialization treatment goals. Lastly, I would support an elderly lady with advanced multiple sclerosis in the evening and overnight, usually on standby for acute cardiac events. Then I would wake up and start the routine over again

The selflessness and unconditional positive regard that I committed to for years is something that will always be with me. I am forever shaped by these experiences. However, sustaining that type of pace is unreasonable so I considered the aphorism "work smarter not harder". That is what led me to higher education and studying this field. The advantage this approach affords me is the opportunity to positively affect more individuals than I can with only my two hands and for this I am most grateful.

Life's Treasures
The most rewarding experience outside of taking care of my mother was my support of a team with Asperger's syndrome. I found he had much more opportunities available to him than others had afforded him. I aided him for many years as he graduated high school and entered college. We encountered resistance from social services, but with perseverance and strong advocacy he was able to accomplish his goals.

What treasures life has in store for us. I am grateful, honored and proud to do what I do. I also sincerely thank those who have similar experiences and chose to help the vulnerable, the stigmatized, the marginalized, and the excluded.