Diversity Stands – It Must
Suddenly needing to adapt to different groups of people was tough. My associates changed from co workers and people who were enjoying life to people who seemed to be focused on just getting through the day.
One of the new cultures I tried hard to fit into was college. Graduating college would have fit me into a professional culture, which represented access to what I wanted. But, as it turns out, poor study habits, brain damage and college is a poor combination. When, at the end of 7 years, all I had to show for my efforts was a diploma from Seattle Central Central Community College, I realized I was fighting a losing battle and chose to increase the amount of time I was spending pursuing a personally more rewarding career path: standup comedy.
My invisible disabilities, my attitude toward my physical disabilities, things like anger, resentment, self pity and fear did more to keep me from fitting in than my visible disabilities. Once I got out of the hospital trying to fit in among people who had not had life altering accidents made me feel like this elephant trying to be friends with this sheep. “Include me,” I desperately thought “I’m a person, too.”
My crash destroyed my plan A, and I didn’t have a Plan B!
Statistically many folks let BD (brain damage) define them, but there’s also statistical evidence that many others push past this hurdle to lead happy, normal lives.
In 1980, I was strong, healthy and quick-minded. Quicker than you can say, “What’s up?” all that changed. No more healthy body or quick thinking mind. I was still kind, motivated and extremely masculine, but I’d become someone I didn’t recognize, or even like. The biased way I viewed myself was the way I figured other people saw me, and that scared me! If other people saw me how I saw me, I was done! How could I expect to get anything positive from anyone?
My rehab journey taught me that people are like mirror. The initial bitterness following my crash hung over me like a black cloud, it tainted the words I spoke and even seemed to sweat out of my pores, placing me in the stereotypical category of someone who’s been beaten by life. Yes, angry bitterness is what happens when you can’t move on, or is it that you can’t move on because you’re angry and bitter? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
A cliché says, “Time heals all wounds.” What a CROCK! Time does not heal all wounds. Time’s a piece of the healing puzzle, but my experience is that without the other two pieces, all time does is make you older.
A Diversity Healing Puzzle
My healing included three parts: ACCEPTANCE came first. Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am restless, irritable or discontent, it is because I am finding some person, place, thing or situation unacceptable to me. And I can find no peace until I ACCEPT whatever I think is unacceptable. IOW, without ACCEPTANCE, I cannot be happy. To me, acceptance means “Instead of complaining that roses have thorns, I’m thankful thorn bushes have roses.” IOW, I’ve learned to focus on what I have instead of what I don’t have. Working to change that which is unacceptable is the second piece of the healing puzzle. ACCEPTANCE does not mean giving up or becoming complacent. What makes acceptance so valuable is, ACCEPTING my situation is what improved my ATTITUDE, which gave me the power to work on improving my situation.
Having or not having an accepting ATTITUDE will either make us or break us. One piece at a time, we are either building castles or coffins. PATIENCE is the third piece to the puzzle. It takes time to learn new skills and rebuild a life. So there we have it, the pathway to a rebuilt life and strong relationships is built on the backs of Acceptance, Work and Patience. In my mid 20’s, I began to accept the things I could not change by focusing on the blessings I have instead of the ones I don’t have. My focus melted my bitterness, which helps me connect with people again, contribute to life again, and love and be loved again.
My point in all this is that everything we need for the building or rebuilding of self is precisely what we need for happiness in all our relationships. Whether child or adult, Chx, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist or Atheist, life feels best when we receive Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection, and when we are Allowed to live in accordance with our deepest needs.
Diversity Questions Answered
The best way I found to receive the a fore mentioned 5 A’s is to give the a fore mentioned 5 A’s. The biggest lesson in my presentation Delighting in Differences is to show you how these 5 A’s have always helped me feel better about myself. Feeling better about myself helps me feel better about you. IOW, the five A’s help me feel respectful and be respected. These connection skills are a foundation from which we can successfully manage the challenges of a diversified workforce.
Al Foxx is an Inspirational Humorist and Keynote Speaker.
Contact him for your next event, he will bring humor and inspiration or diversity training to your audience.