Sunday, March 31, 2013
My wife Tamika and I have been happily married for almost six years now, and our joy in each other has only grown deeper with the arrival of our first child, our beautiful daughter Brailey, this past December. Tamika and I knew before we got married that we wanted children, but it took a little longer than we expected. The wait was worth it.
When we brought Brailey home in December, every gurgle, every cough, every noise was cause for concern. We were brand new parents, and it took a while to understand that this fragile, precious creature in our care was really much sturdier than either of us knew. Brailey has been a wonderful teacher for Tamika and me, although she’s sometimes a bit impatient when we don’t get it quite right fast enough. We have come to learn what the coos, gurgles, cries, and various noises mean. We have come to learn her language, so to speak, and she is remarkably expressive. Brailey has learned to coo and gurgle and laugh with delight, and she has stolen our hearts. And sometimes that’s a problem.
Weeks before Tamika had to go back to work as a high school guidance counselor, she started tearing up at the thought of it.
“Dwight, this is going to break my heart,” Tamika told me one day. She was anticipating the worst, which may be a good thing because in the end, it wasn’t that bad. We found reliable day care for Brailey, and each morning Tamika dresses herself and the baby, spends an hour with Brailey before heading off to work, and brings Brailey to day care about a mile from the school. The day care center is terrific, and they also have cameras that we can tie into our computers so we can see Brailey any time we want. That gives both of us a great deal of reassurance. In addition, the employees at the day care center have become like family to us.
One day shortly after Tamika went back to work and Brailey joined the world of day care, I glanced at the screen to see what Brailey was up to. I was shocked. There was a woman there leaning over our baby and kissing her. I immediately got on the phone and called Tamika.
“Tamika, there’s some woman leaning over our baby kissing on her,” I said with concern.
Tamika paused for a second and let out a big laugh. “Dwight, you big goof, that’s me.”
Well, like most men, I hadn’t paid any attention to what Tamika was wearing that day, and I could only see her from behind because of the camera angle. Tamika went to check in on Brailey. At the end of the day, Tamika was pleased that I had been watching the screen and called her, although she continued to call me a goof for not knowing it was her.
What I do know from all this is that Brailey has already done much in her short life. She has made herself the object of our affection and brought Tamika and me even closer. Our hearts leap with joy when we see Brailey, and we smile constantly at this new addition to our life. Tamika, a happy and loving wife already, is now filled with a new joy. And that makes me happy too.
To learn more about my story or to purchase "Still Standing," visit www.StillStandingWithDwight.com
Friday, March 22, 2013
A life time ago when I was 22 and had just graduated college, I was filled with excitement about the road ahead. I had a job teaching math and technology, and I was on my way to becoming a football coach. That was my dream, and the world was mine to conquer. I had a few dollars in my pocket and a new car. Things were too good to even think they might change, and I couldn’t wait to take on each new challenge. Fate, however, had other plans, and my life was turned upside down one rainy afternoon by a 71-year old drunk driver.
Before my accident, I gave little thought to the community around me. I was too busy being full of myself. Too busy starting out on my new career, too busy dreaming of becoming a head football coach, and too busy simply engaging in all the things young men dream about. After my accident, I became busy with other things. I was busy recovering from surgeries. I was busy learning how to use a wheelchair. What I didn’t know is that I was also busy learning all the things volunteers, my church, my family, and my community did to support me. That understanding came more slowly, but over time it became part of who I am and the man I would become.
People volunteered to raise funds for my medical expenses. People volunteered to do things at my home. People volunteered to spend time with me and take me on excursions. It seemed like there was an army of volunteers pitching in to help me get my life back. And while I was grateful throughout, it has taken almost a decade for me to realize just how important all these people really were to me. They did what they did out of love. They were not seeking reward or recognition. They were not seeking anything for themselves other than the knowledge that their help was needed, and they would answer the call. With almost a decade in the rear view mirror, I now understand what volunteering is all about, and it has become a core part of my life.
Volunteering means knowing you can make a difference. Volunteering means engaging with your community and extending yourself beyond your direct personal interest. Volunteering sometimes means giving tough love, and it always means giving encouragement. Volunteering means knowing you have something you can offer to people who need it, and then doing the practical things to make it happen. In the past few years, my volunteering has meant mentoring people who met with sudden and life threatening disabilities like spinal cord injuries. It has also meant speaking countless times before high school and college groups about personal responsibility and the risks of drinking and driving. What I also learned is that volunteering filled me with a joy I hadn’t fully understood. It has meant making a difference in somebody’s life, even if I didn’t always know who that person was. Mostly volunteering has meant being part of something bigger than myself.
I don’t mean to preach, but we can all find the time to contribute. We just have to make it a priority. The rewards come back tenfold, and the feeling of self satisfaction can’t be matched. Every community needs our support, and it just seems right to give a little back in recognition of all the good things we get.
Have a great week.
To learn more about my missions or to purchase my book, visit www.StillStandingWithDwight.com
Friday, March 15, 2013
I have been associated with L.I.F.E (Living Independence For Everyone) of Mississippi since shortly after my accident, and they are a remarkable group of people. LIFE is headed by Christy Dunaway, and she was born a triple amputee. Christy also has more energy, joy, and ability than any other five people I know combined. She was raised with the same expectations as any other child, volunteered at a children’s hospital as a youth, and graduated college in 1985. She does everything you and I can do. It is this drive to live independently, this desire to contribute to her community that brought her to LIFE. Christy became the Director of LIFE for Central Mississippi in 1995 and then for the entire state in 2000. She has inspired thousands along the way and helped the hopeless find hope. Perhaps more importantly, she has shown them through her own personal example how to be self-sufficient.
So what does LIFE do and how do they do it? LIFE grew out of a band of patriots with disabilities who stood up in 1993 and claimed they could be as productive as anybody else in the marketplace. It turns out, they were right. This coalition submitted a grant request, received initial funding, and hasn’t looked back since. Along with the Project LINC (Linking Individuals Into Neighborhoods & Communities) program, LIFE currently serves well over 1000 people in the state with major disabilities like blindness, amputation, and spinal cord injury. And they are hands on. They don’t just preach their particular gospel, they live it. I know this because I worked with LIFE for two years, and most of the employees at LIFE have some type of disability. You wouldn’t know it to see them work, however, or perhaps you would. You may see someone blind walking from cubicle to cubicle as if they had perfect vision. You may see people in wheelchairs diagnosing computer glitches and or mentoring someone. You may see amputees organizing public outreach and running business meetings. But mostly you would see these people in the field working one-on-one with newly disabled people helping them learn practical things like maneuvering around their apartments or taking plates off a shelf or learning simply learning to be independent.
LIFE’s exclusive mission is to give people with disabilities the confidence and skills to go their way on their own. Person-by-person, day-by-day, they offer people a new sense of hope, pride, and self reliance. This not only brings great happiness to the person learning these skills, it helps families and the broader community. In fact, many, probably even most, of the employees at LIFE are alumnae of their program. And when they go to work at LIFE, there are proud with no excuses. Every person, no matter the disability, is expected to do their job to the highest standards in the profession. To my way of thinking, that’s a pretty good program.
I feel honored to know Christy and to call LIFE family.
For more information on LIFE and their services, visit www.LifeofMS.com
To learn more about my story, my mission, or to purchase a copy of "Still Standing," visit www.StillStandingWithDwight.com
Friday, March 1, 2013
It’s hard to say you really love a company. Maybe Nike or Blue Bell ice cream, but there aren’t many. In their cases, though, I just like the product. In the case of Cabot Creamery, I love the company and its culture. Here’s why.
Cabot Creamery has a philosophy that builds company awareness and customer loyalty not only through the quality of their products, after all, they are the “makers of the world’s best cheddar,” but through their community spirit and sense of volunteerism. And that’s not the way most companies do things. They embrace a belief that what goes around comes around, and if they support the community around them, the community will support them as well. It’s a philosophy that seems to work. No, scratch that. It’s a philosophy that does work. Here are some examples.
Every year or so, Cabot hosts a Celebrity Cruise, but their celebrities are not the people you normally think of. Their celebrities are local heroes. They are people nominated by their community for the service they give every day with no thought of reward. Cabot’s celebrities are the volunteer EMT who has answers the early morning call every time for twenty years, the home town leader who has organized their friends and neighbors to provide food and clothing for a local homeless shelter, the teacher who created a program for at risk kids and works every weekend to support it. And, yes, even me, the person who suffered a spinal cord injury and shares his story at schools and rehab centers in the South. Cabot spends its marketing dollars supporting local communities, not adding more noise and jingles to the airwaves.
|Roberta Macdonald, Senior VP of Cabot Creamery|
A second example is the “Put A Bad Beat On Hunger” no limit Texas holdem poker tournament they sponsor at Borgata Casino each year in Atlantic City for the benefit of the New Jersey FoodBank. They promote the event, increase awareness of the critical work this organization does to save lives and help people pull themselves out of poverty, and donate a large portion of the proceeds to the charity.
Events like these and many others they sponsor require great attention to detail, a lot of time and planning, and money. Somehow, Cabot has found a magic elixir. They invest their marketing dollars in the community in ways that lift the lives of thousands. Their reward is twofold. They have the satisfaction of knowing they’ve done something worthy, and word spreads about the company at the same time. Customer by customer, they have built a client base that is fiercely loyal, and they do it by bringing a great product to the marketplace and supporting the very people and communities who support them. To my way of thinking, that’s a company you can actually say you love.
For more information on my story, my missions, or to purchase a copy of “Still Standing,” visit my original website at www.StillStandingWithDwight.com .