Monday, January 23, 2017
Why I marched … toward human dignity AND reality
By Monica Vest Wheeler
Did you ever feel the need to just walk, to exercise your rights, to do something you've never done before? I did that Saturday, January 21, for the first time in my life, taking part in the Peoria, IL, version of the Women's March that swept this nation and various pockets of the world.
I did not take this decision to walk lightly, and for me, it was NOT political. I created my own poster, "It's all about human dignity and compassion, caring for caregivers." My friend Genny urged on her poster for parents to raise their sons to respect women and to raise daughters to earn respect. Her message focused on education and behavior, a powerful one that constantly needs to be reiterated.
I don't consider myself a protester, but rather someone who is not afraid to speak up about the often overlooked needs of a growing number of individuals and families who are dealing with serious injuries, illnesses and diseases, and the ongoing challenges of caregiving. Yes, women make up the bulk of family caregivers, but there are more men AND children joining these ranks every day.
It's not just a woman's issue: it's a human issue, the need to focus on human dignity and compassion for those who are affected and those who care for them. Family caregivers provide billions of dollars worth of unpaid service, and the financial toll grows larger every day. I witness every day that society and government are ill-prepared for the demands of caring for individuals with brain-related conditions, from traumatic brain injury to stroke to Alzheimer's to autism to mental illness and more.
And that doesn't include an endless array of other health conditions. The need to provide 24/7 care for Alzheimer's patients alone could very easily bankrupt this nation. And this doesn't even touch on the emotional and physical toll on caregivers.
We need to work smarter, not necessarily harder, in every corner of this nation. We need to make some personal sacrifices for the greater good. We need to learn to give more and take less. We have to face new realities that the world has changed, that certain markets and industries simply don't exist anymore.
Lamenting the past only prolongs the regrets and self-pity and blame. We must look forward.
Therein lies the beauty of putting our imaginations to work for that greater good, to reinforce the notion that lifelong learning is a joy and responsibility, that there is endless human potential and ideas that will create new markets and industries, that service to others can enrich us emotionally, physically, spiritually AND financially.
We do not and must not live in isolation.
I abhor those who resort to self-serving vandalism, violence and vulgarity. It's criminal, greedy, selfish and hateful.
I equally admonish those who lie, those who cover up, those who steal from the less fortunate, those who push their own selfish agendas without regard for the human toll. We must hold those individuals accountable and never relent on the path to truth.
That gathering Saturday was filled with sunshine and hope. I see the beauty and potential of healing and lifting. The enthusiasm and passion must be constantly reignited if we are to survive as a community, a nation, a world.
When we serve with sincerity and compassion, we cannot be stopped. When we lift others, we cannot be ignored. When we look beyond ourselves, we will not be forgotten.
Forget the politics. Shame the politicians who put politics above the human condition. Speak loudly against those who only care about their egos and bank accounts.
Now, give me a little while to think of my own movement to keep the momentum going …