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Being Versus Doing Stramp


The biggest handicap most of us face as parents, relatives, friends or supporters of people with disabilities is our ignorance of any direct experience of disability. Screening out our own bias of what is best for our children is a life-long job for many of us. We carry an invisible backpack of stereotypes based on our non-disabled view of the world. Our insights can be feeble and patronizing. Eloquent expressions of life as a person with a disability enlighten us. Most helpful are those accounts by people who become disabled later in life. Somehow an articulate comparison of life before and after disability and a description of the transition provides us with a basis for comparison with our own experience.

One of the most stirring accounts we have encountered so far is contained in Bonnie Sherr Klein’s beautiful portrait of her evolution: a brilliant filmmaker, the creator of Not a Love Story and Speaking Our Peace becomes a woman with a disability.

Her book, Slow Dance - A Story of Love, Stroke and Disability, is a deeply moving story of her recovery from two catastrophic strokes that nearly killed her. Incidentally, the book is also an account of a loving marriage: Bonnie and Michael’s relationship will fill you with joy, envy, and hope. Nowhere have we read as articulate, detailed and gripping an account of the experience of disability. As Eileen O’Brien, Chair of DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) Canada points out, "A new language is being spoken here: this is our experience."

Slow Dance is also the story of Bonnie Sherr Klein’s awakening to a fuller appreciation of her many gifts, not just the gifts of a talented filmmaker. At the end of her book she invites us to ponder the wisdom of another gift — the gift of asking:

"What I have learned finally is that in asking for help I offer other people an opportunity for intimacy and collaboration. Whether I’m asking for me personally or for disabled people generally, I give them the opportunity to be their most human. In Judaism, we call this gift a "mitzvah."

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