Sunday, October 2, 2011
Guest Post: Rachael Benson
Please Help me welcome author Rachael Benson to the blog today. She has a wonderful and inspirational testimony about living in a wheel chair. She is a great example for those who have a child with a physical challenge because she is such a positive example. She is someone these parents need to know.
As the last few months of the year are upon us and the holidays are just around the corner, may her story inspire you to reach beyond today and do something for others. She will change the way you think about physical disabilities believe me.
Please feel free to visit her blog or leave a comment. Rachael is always available to answer questions or to help others who may be living with a physical challenge. She really is an inspiration.
The Unexpected Visitor
I volunteer at my local hospital. I’m known as the “patient visitations” volunteer but I have many names. Nurses and doctors who have known me for a while and know what I do say, “Here comes the magazine lady.” But I like to call myself, ‘the unexpected visitor.” At the hospital, I knock on a patient’s door. When I hear “come in,” I enter with a big smile on my face as I say, “Hi, my name is Rachael. I volunteer here. Would you like a magazine? It’s free.” Patients are often surprised when I say that – for a couple of reasons. One reason is that they can’t believe something free is being offered to them. Once a patient answered, “What a delight.” The other reason people are often surprised is because I’m in a wheelchair, and I have cerebral palsy. Many people are surprised by the fact that someone with a disability is out in the community, let alone out contributing to society. They wonder how I can help others when it looks as if I need help myself. They might also wonder why I’d want to help others. No one says anything, but it’s obvious that people don’t know how to react because I’m in a wheelchair. Silently, their first reaction seems to be, What is she doing here?
My wheelchair starts conversation. People will ask, “What kind of illness do you have?” “It’s not an illness,” I tell them. “It’s a condition. It’s called cerebral palsy. I was born this way. I have a walker at home. I use the wheelchair in the community for faster mobility.”
People are also surprised by my openness and my ability to communicate. It makes them want to know more. Some patients may have been told by their doctor that they’re going to have to start using a wheelchair at home. They’ve never had to use a wheelchair before, and now they want to know what it’s like. “It takes a lot of practice,” I tell them. “It’s like learning how to drive a car. Even if you’ve been driving for years, every time you get a new car, you have to learn how that particular one works because each one is different. It takes time and patience. But once you get the hang of it, you can do it.”
At the end of a visit people are encouraged. Seeing me in my wheelchair often gives patients and their families the assurance they need that everything is going to be okay. Many times someone will say to me, “Thanks for coming by.” “You’re welcome.” I reply. “I’m glad to be of service.” People also say, “God Bless you.” I smile and say, “Thank you.” Volunteering at the hospital reminds me to be thankful for what I have. Some patients I visit don’t have any family at all, or their families live too far away to come visit them. I may be the only person they see besides a doctor or a nurse. If they want to talk, I’m usually the only one who has time to sit and listen to them. For these patients I call myself, “the unexpected visitor.” If I didn’t come visit them, who would? I’m able to brighten someone else’s day. It’s my pleasure.
Volunteering at the hospital and visiting patients also gives me a sense of fulfillment. People are always looking for ways to help me because of my disability. When I’m volunteering, it’s the other way around. I’m able to show them that having a disability doesn’t mean they can’t be a productive member of society. Even if they suddenly have to adjust to a lifetime in a wheelchair, they can still do the things they used to do, maybe just a little bit differently. I’m able to get people to start thinking, If this girl can do it, and she was born this way, then what’s stopping me? I always say that I was born with extra determination. If someone asks me, “Rachael, don’t you thinks this is a little dangerous?” I look at them and say, “Danger is my middle name!” It makes people laugh as they reply, “Well then, go for it!” That’s how I strive to live my life, and I try to communicate that to the people in my community. If you really want to accomplish something, nothing is impossible! Go for it!
I was born at Tarzana Hospital on February 8, 1983. I have Cerebral Palsy. I was two months earlier than expected. I was originally supposed to come on April 8, but due to lack of oxygen supply to the brain, I got pneumonia in my mother’s womb, and had to come out early. I was not expected to live. I’m only alive today by God’s grace. I’m twenty-eight years old, and I’ve been a Christian since I was very young. I live in Valencia California with my mother. My dad died of a massive heart attack on January 27, 1995.
I graduated from College of the Canyons with my A.A. degree in Social Science in June 2007. I’ve been published locally in the Canyon Call, the college newspaper, in March 2005. I’ve also been published in The Santa Clartia Magazine in April 2009. My first published work was a rebuttal, written in response to an editorial headlined: “Religious Nuts Expose Spongebob Squarepants.” The other one was called, “Would You Like A Magazine?” It was about the volunteer work that I do at the hospital, passing out magazines, and bringing smiles to patients. A lot of people don’t expect a person with a disability to be helping others. They’re surprised! I also have a blogspot. http://rachaelsadventuresinfaith.blogspot.com
My passion for writing began with Sesame Street books and Mister Rogers Neighborhood. I attend Grace Baptist Church where I help out with the Awana program, where I get many of my story ideas. The idea for The Hunt for heaven sparked from a child who asked, “What will heaven be like?” The story is built around the parable of the hidden treasure found in Matthew 13:44.
Now, I’m working on a second book called The Special Gift. The story line revolves around a girl named Rebecca who is in a wheelchair and also has CP. Rebecca likes to dance, but how can someone in a wheelchair dance? My goal in writing this story is to spread the gospel and raise disability awareness- to show people that having a disability does not mean deaf and dumb. People with disabilities are able to contribute to society, just in a different way. I’ve got a lot to say and I’m going to say it! As my writing advances, I want to be very similar to Joni Eareckson Tada. She is paralyzed from the waist down from a diving accident at the age of seventeen. Now she has her own disability ministry in Aguora Hills California called Joni and Friends. She helps people with disabilities and their families cope with the daily challenges of disability as well as address the spiritual aspect of it. She has written many books. I call her my spiritual mentor. I want to be the next Joni. My goal is to minister to kids and their families through my writing for many years to come.