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I often think about the paradox of ‘disability’.  I have found (with apologies to Newton!) that ‘for every disability there is an equal and opposite ability’. Kathy Hunter expresses this eloquently in the following essay.

Kathy Hunter is founder and president of the 
International Rett Syndrome Association.

Each of us has our own definition of blessings. For those of us whose lives are touched by Rett Syndrome, blessings are abundant. And although many people may see our lives as tragic, we do not have to look far to see the many blessings our daughters have brought to our lives. We only have to look into their eyes, and deep within ourselves.

While society sees them as a powerless people, they have such tremendous power to change us, the ability to make weak men strong and to make strong men weep. Although parts of our hearts withered with grief from the loss, the rest of our hearts grew so big to make room for their pure unselfish love.

We have learned that none of us is perfect; we are all in different stages of imperfection, all handicapped in some way. And even though the time and energy spent caring for these girls is sometimes exhausting, they enable us to experience the rich rewards of caring for them as we receive more than we give.

They have to be fed, yet they feed our spirits. They need help to walk, yet help us to walk taller. They cannot speak in words, yet tell a story of unconditional love.

We may have spent a whole lifetime trying to teach them, yet every day it is they who give the lessons and we who learn. We learn how to give and how to take, how to give help and how to ask for it.

They give us courage when the rest of the world says to give up, determination when it would have been easier to resign.

We learn about justice and the unfairness of having to fight for equal rights in an unequal world.

Our daughters help us to distinguish the important things in life, Things like love, sharing, getting along in the world, the knowledge that loved ones are safe, healthy and making a difference.

We learn not to jump to conclusions nor rush to judgement about the way things should or should not be. They teach us to pause and think, and to realise that words like rich, famous, beautiful and talented are only adjectives, and not important adjectives at that.

We learn patience not only in providing for their care, but also for those who stare, for professionals who don’t always listen and for those who don’t understand. And we struggle to learn forgiveness for them all.

From our girls we learn an appreciation for life’s little blessings. Important stuff like smiles and giggles, a spark of recognition, faltering steps, wet kisses, a day with no seizures.

In understanding the complexity of the human brain and the many problems that can occur, we realise that each one of us is a miracle.

They teach us that our capacity to love is enormous, greater than we ever knew possible. They fill us with the ability to protect, nurture and care, show us how to accept today, and dare us to dream of a better tomorrow.

They bring out the best in us.