Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cory Johnson: Turning disabilities into possibilities

I had lunch yesterday with an amazing young man, Cory Johnson. I have his permission to use his name as Cory's mission in life is to inspire people. He sure inspired me!

The affects of Cerebral Palsy that Cory was born with affected the left side of his body. At age 11 he suffered a stroke that affected the right side of his body.

Cory has encountered some pretty tough situations throughout his 26+ years. Cops often think he's drunk. People on the street will often give him a wide berth, or share choice words as they drive by, because his unsteady gait makes them suspicious of his sobriety. For some reason, they think their suspicions give them the right to be rude. Yet, no matter what's happened, Cory always uses the opportunity to turn his disability into possibilities.

Cory tells the story of being at a hockey game sitting on a bench drinking a pop waiting for a friend. A cop approached, grabbed his drink, pried the lid off and sniffed it. No hello. Just grab and sniff. Cory figured it was a good time to help him understand what Cerebral Palsy is and... to get the name of his supervisor.

In Cory's vision, it's never too late for anyone to learn about the disabilities they possess. "That cop's attitude disabled him from seeing the truth about who I am," he said. "I'm not a drunk. I'm Cory."

Today, Cory is a professional speaker and is about to publish his first book.

Having lunch with Cory yesterday reminded me about the power of humour. When he talks, there's always a ripple of laughter running throughout the conversation. "It's only other people who see me as someone with a disability," he told me as we sat at a copper topped table in Main Dish, one of my favourite bistro's in Bridgeland. "I don't think of myself as disabled. I think of myself as someone with possibilities." And with those words, he waved his fork in the air and the potato on the end went flying. "Ooops," he laughed. "Must be a disabled potato. Can't stick to the fork." He paused. "Or maybe it was looking for better possibilities for life at another table."

Perhaps my disability is not being able to find my sense of humour about living. If I look at it as a disability, I'm open to the possibility of finding it.

I had a lot of fun yesterday. Lunch with Cory. An afternoon teaching a class on self-esteem to clients at the shelter where I work. One of the attendees wrote on his evaluation, "I learned a lot and it was fun!"

Hey! I'm starting to get the drift of this humour thing. Author, actor, Mary Hirsch said, “Humor is a rubber sword - it allows you to make a point without drawing blood."

Yesterday, I used humour a lot to make my point in the classroom -- no one can steal your self esteem if you never knew you had any to begin with. They sure can squash your ability to claim it, however, if you make their opinion about you count more than your own.

One of the things we talked about yesterday as well was how people with low self-esteem often tend to use perfectionism as an excuse not to do anything.

This morning, I had forgotten that I made a commitment to write funny -- I was going to be all serious and stuff about lessons learned yesterday. And then I started to write about my lunch with Cory. Humour is an integral component of time spent with Cory -- and the power of laughter to keep things light. If I want to find my sense of humour, I need to learn how to do it, to practice the art and to keep doing it.

Day one on learning to write funny. I'm learning to see the lighter side of living one word at a time. When I know better I do better. As I learn to step lightly onto the page, I shall increase the presence of humour lifting me up to inspiring heights.

The question is: Where do you take yourself so seriously you lose sight of the light?


Naomi Edwards said...

Lovely article, my friend has asked me to Google Cory saying how inspirational he is. That he is!!!! I couldn't get much info on Cory's website so thank you for writing are so lucky to have had the chance to sit and laugh with Corey.

Naomi Edwards said...

I am your newest follower by email... I have a son with Autism and I have MS or is undetermined , this will be my place of inspiration for I have been feeling down lately and this article really made me feel alive , thank you so much for that... I am visiting from Creative Bug on the Loose , I am a Card Maker, digital artists and scrapbooker... I am making cards and donating them to Autism Society so they can sell them and raise money for the cause. Have a great day!

Louise Gallagher said...

Hi Naomi -- thanks for dropping in to visit -- Cory is an amazing human being!

I tried to find your blog, Creative Bug on the Loose, but google couldn't find it for me -- can you send me the link please? I'd love to drop in.

Blessings! And wow -- good for you for doing what you do and making a difference. If you are interested, I write a blog -- A Year of Making a Difference -- and am always looking for guest bloggers on Sunday -- would you be interested in sharing a post?