Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

So many small and large groups of the most thoughtful people have changed my life in the last few years. In 2006, when I moved to Chicago to begin college, I never anticipated this vast and lasting impact.  

My time at North Park showed me the true love of God. I was able to shape my childhood surrounded by faith into an experience of my own. I was blessed with a pastor who loved unconditionally, fought for what she believed in, and always believed in me.  I traveled to Mexico, India, and Bolivia embracing the beauty of simplicity. North Park taught me to be a fearless (with the grace of God) leader.  Image

During undergrad, an unforgettable family, the Nicholson’s, came into my life who will forever be my “Chicago” family.  I cannot express the love they have shown me and how flawlessly they took me under their wing as one of their own.  The joy this family has brought me is unfathomable.  

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My community of literacy. Where to even begin. This group of families has treated me like family. Their children have taught meSo much. They have taught me beauty. Fortitude. Grace. Love. Acceptance. I have learned to slow down. They encompass my passion as a special education teacher and give me the strength and ability to grow. Jimmy, without fail, if I am ever having a hard day — I leave happy.  You bring out joy in me. You bring out joy in the world around you. Conor, your determination, fortitude, and laughs always remind me to keep going, even if it’s hard. You are such an inspiration. Sean, your laugh is contagious and my heart melts  everytime you see me, and sign, “How are you?” Katia, your caring heart always makes me feel welcome and loved. You have a gift to care, and you will continuously touch people’s lives.  

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My Skyler. Oh, my Skye. You have taught me so many beautiful things. I could never anticipate loving you so much. You have taught me about family. You have taught me to listen, because small voices have big things to say. You have shown me that life is full of small, precious moments that can be so easily missed unless you take a breath and embrace them. You have taught me how to be a mother one day. You have given me hope, and so much grace.  You my dear, will always be loved.  

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School, has been a blessing. I love to learn. I love to be challenged, but again, I never anticipated the joy this group of peers would bring me. I started a cohort 2 years ago, and the 15 of us have learned to become teachers (and so much more) together. I have learned that it’s okay to be imperfect. I always look forward to laughing, this group of people are so great to laugh with. 

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My horse community.  I started riding horses again to escape.  As much as it is still a beautiful escape for me, once again community has found me.  Through people and horses. My trainer, friends, small people, old people, parents, staff, they all share a contagious love to be near each other and ride. I am taken care of here.  My horse brings me peace and deep pleasure. I could go on forever. 

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I am so blessed and thankful because, dear God — sometimes life is hard.

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Judge By A Cover

Riding is my safe place.  Somehow, I forget about anything I might be worried or stressed about.  I feel one hundred percent present and focused.  But, here I’m not a perfectionist, as I am in almost everything else.  I love to work hard, master new skills, and I am constantly learning something new.  It’s a goldmine for new knowledge. But, I don’t become frustrated when I don’t master it, I am excited to try it again.  The first horse I leased was Prez.  He automatically stole my heart.  He’s caring and calm.  He makes me feel calm and his spirit brings out my joy.  When I asked my trainer about leasing him again, she said…”You’ve mastered everything on Prez, you can lease a horse that will challenge you.”  

She’s all about tough love.  She told me I could lease Jake.  

Here are my interactions with Jake.  First, while I was riding Prez one afternoon, we were all standing in line next to each other, and he got as close to me as he could and kicked me in the leg, for absolutely no reason.  Second, he purposely snuck up behind the horse I was riding, scared him, and my horse threw me, resulting in a very painful fall.  

She told me I could lease Jake. Great. 

I took a deep breath and said yes.  I wasn’t scared or nervous, just worried that I wouldn’t love my time with him as much as I loved my time with Prez.  

Week 1 of 5… He bucked me at least 6 times the first day, wouldn’t let me in his stall, put his hears straight back everytime he saw me, wouldn’t let me bridle him, kicked me every time I got near him, and bit my shoulder.  

I was swearing a little in my head. 

But, I very quickly realized the more I rode him, the more I talked to him, and took care of him, the more he cared for me, the more he calmed down.  Week 2 of 5, I found out for 6 years he was owned by an Amish community that beat him.  Jake was beaten when he didn’t work hard enough.  No wonder he didn’t trust me. 

My heart broke.  And I was all of a sudden very thankful for my patience with Jake, even before I knew his story. 

I just finished my 3rd week with him, and my trainer came up to me today and said… I’ve never seen Jake so calm.  He must really trust you. When I get to his stall his ears perk up and he kicks his door until I open it so he can nuzzle me.  When he gets anxious, I know that talking to him will remind him that I am safe.  He takes care of me now.  We take care of each other.    

Jake reminded me to listen to people’s stories, even if they don’t tell you through words.  Everyone has one, and it’s important, recognize it.  

 

I see you.

I see you. 

Child, the whole world may not see through my eyes. 

I see your beauty, strength, and continuous fortitude.

The children I work with are survivors, fighters, and so incredibly precious.  I see so much beauty in them, I don’t see their disability, I see them.  They see each other.  Children with special needs take care of each other, because they know the battle it takes to socialize, speak, learn, or interact in a way the world tells them is appropriate.  These children never try to change each other.  They embrace each other’s differences, accept their challenges, and create safety for each other.

They are credible people, friends, family, and they always will be.

 Because pain creates credibility.

They are humans. They feel all the same emotions that we do. They fight. They get discouraged.  They love. They work hard. They give up. They keep going. 

They want to be heard.  

Listen.  They have so much to say.