Category Archives: Inspirational

Saying Thank You to Volunteers

A Malayan proverb says, “One can pay back the loan of gold, but one dies forever in debt to those who are kind.” I find this to be an especially fitting thought for today, which is the beginning of National Volunteer Week. National Volunteer Week is a week to recognize those hardworking souls who give their time and efforts to worthy causes.

All through high school, I watched my mom as she sat on various committees at the school I attended and volunteered for various activities at our grade school. She was so involved and, at certain points of the year, her free time was basically non-existent. You could read the exhaustion on her face, and every year, she would say, “I’m not doing this next year.” Of course, next year would roll around and she would volunteer again to chair the committee and I would say, “Why can’t you just say ‘No’?”

I suspect that my mom never answered that question because she didn’t quite know why she couldn’t say ‘No.’ However, I happen to think that she is just hard-wired to be a volunteer. She has the heart of a volunteer, and is attracted to volunteerism like a moth to a flame. Some people are like that. And this week, we recognize those people, who continually put others before themselves.  

I’m convinced that without volunteers, the world would stop spinning. Tangram is lucky to have a small, but dedicated group of volunteers. Some volunteer at our administrative office, some help with our special event, Summer Sizzle, some give their time as board members, and some have made valuable connections with our clients as friends, a role that gives richness to the lives of those we serve.

So, to all of those selfless individuals who proudly serve Tangram and our clients as volunteers, I would like to say, simply, Thank You. I hope you know how much you are appreciated.


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Filed under Community, Giving, Inspirational

Finding Judy Garland in my flowers

On Monday (Valentine’s Day), I received a lovely springtime bouquet of flowers. After unwrapping the plastic and filling the vase full of water (I think it had tipped over in the delivery truck), I trotted back to my desk and placed the bouquet right next to my computer. Since Monday, I have spent countless minutes just staring at the flowers. They are gorgeous—bright yellow lilies, subtly purple daisies, light pink alstroemeria, 2 silky carnations, deep violet limonium, a tulip, and an iris. I also had one cheery daffodil, but it fell victim to the delivery truck.

The more I admired the arrangement, the more I found that my favorite flowers were the ones that were rarest in the bouquet; my solitary iris, the lonely tulip, and the single stem of limonium. Each day I watch these fade and regret that I will eventually only have a bunch of daisies and Peruvian lilies. They don’t seem special or unique if I have dozens of the same thing.

The same is true of people. I have spent a good deal of time trying to conform to the standards of society and the trends of the marketplace, but what I find is that people tend to remember and appreciate my quirky qualities, the ones that make me Lindsey and not a cookie cutter replica of Amanda or Leanne or  Erica. So, today, let’s all try to appreciate what sets us apart from everyone else. Let’s be the iris in a sea of daisies. Judy Garland said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” I think that is good advice.



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Filed under Disability, Inspirational, Perspective

Please use your “outside” voice

Champion and empower…

As a member of Sertoma (a service organization), one of my duties is to read and judge essays submitted by 5th graders on the subject of freedom for our Freedom Essay Contest. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but after reading about a dozen, I began to understand what I was in for. Almost every essay mentioned Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation (my guess is that they just completed the part of their curriculum that covers the Civil War, so it was fresh in their growing minds).

It seems that what resonates with this particular batch of 5th graders is that Lincoln was an advocate for those without a voice. For many of the fifth graders, freedom is what happened when Lincoln championed an entire population and signed the Emancipation Proclamation. But, let’s not forget those who advocated for themselves—Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and the countless other slaves and abolitionists who spoke out against slavery. Because these people raised their voices, civil rights movements began and our country became the nation it is today.

Today, we have new opportunities for advocates. Be an advocate for someone with a disability. If you are living with a disability, be an advocate for yourself. Raise your voice, stand up for yourself, empower others. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Those who raise their voices today will be the subject of Freedom Essays tomorrow.



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Bears and apples create lessons that stick

Everyone makes beautiful music…

I judge books by their covers. Literally. I can’t help myself. I fall victim to marketing ploys and eye-catching, creative artwork all the time. I buy Cottonelle because of the puppy.

I try my best not to judge people by their “covers.” Let’s face it—nobody is perfect and I am no exception. Whenever I find myself succumbing to judgmental tendencies, I find it helpful to recall a particularly effective Berenstain Bears lesson wherein Mama Bear demonstrates the importance of not judging people by their outward appearance. She shows Sister Bear two apples: one, which is shiny and perfectly red, and the other, which is misshapen and dull. Then, Mama Bear cuts the apples open and shows them to Sister Bear. The seemingly perfect apple is rotten and riddled with worms on the inside. The lumpy and dull apple is a lovely white color inside without any worms, bad spots, or blemishes. The lesson is obvious: outward physical appearance does not automatically indicate what a person is like on the inside.

There are three videos I would like to include in today’s blog, two borrowed from popular culture (how else will I get you to watch them?), and the third borrowed from the Tanrgam website. The first is Susan Boyles audition on Britain’s Got Talent. Pay particular attention to Simon Cowell’s face as he realizes that his original assessment of Susan Boyle (based on her appearance) is incorrect. It is the best part of the video, in my opinion.

The second video is of 23 year-old Liu Wei, winner of China’s Got Talent. Liu Wei plays the piano beautifully—with his feet. After losing his arms at the age of 10, he learned to play the piano with his feet. He then won a popular television talent competition and inspired viewers all around the world.

The third will give you food for thought (and some very poignant music to listen to).

I hope you enjoy the videos. They are a reminder that everyone makes beautiful music…



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Filed under Community, Culture, Disability, Inspirational

I opened a door…and so can YOU!

Open minds…

For approximately two months, I looked at the blue light at the base of the door situated at the end of the hallway outside of my apartment, just wondering what was beyond the door.

My curiosity never escalated to a point that might force me to open the door. I had always assumed it was locked. But several possibilities were rolling around in my head. For instance, it could be a secret patio that only the apartment complex administration could access. It could be a utility closet with a window. All I knew (or thought I knew) was that it was locked and I had never seen anyone open it or walk through it from the other side.

Then, my mom came for a visit and brought her dog, Gus, with her. As we were taking Gus downstairs for a walk one afternoon, my mother very unceremoniously walked through the mysterious door, like it was no big deal (which it wasn’t, really), like she knew the entire time that it was just the access point for the back stairs (which she did), like she had no idea I had been staring at that door for months conjuring up various complex theories about what was behind the door (which she didn’t).

I stood in the hallway, mouth agape, in total astonishment. “You opened it,” I stammered. Mom looked at me like I was from a different planet. “Yeah, Linds, how else am I supposed to get to the back stairs?”

Hmmm…My mind was completely blown. It was so anti-climactic. Why didn’t I just open the door?

Now seems an appropriate time to get to the point of my little anecdote. In my opinion, the human mind works just like a door. I had a college professor that used to ask us to “unlock” things for other students. One guy in my class didn’t understand what the Bruce Springsteen hype was all about (uh, hello?) until someone took the time to “unlock” The Boss for him.

Our minds are closed, for whatever reasons. Opening them seems so abstract and difficult, like we have to become completely different people in order to open them. The fact is that, just like a door, we need someone to unlock our minds, say something that makes sense to us and to which we can relate. But we also have to be receptive to and aware of what other people are saying to help us unlock the doors of our minds.   

In an age when consumption of material happens in the span of time that it takes to read 140 characters, I know it can be a challenge to want to take the time to understand different perspectives and place ourselves in the shoes of others, but that is the only sure way to open our minds. Just like opening that door at the end of the hallway, opening our minds is easier than we think, and the only thing lying on the other side is a stairway to a better place.



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Filed under Disability, Humor, Inspirational

Dreamers of the World: Starring John Lennon, Martin Luther King Jr., and Don Quixote

Dreamers are the leaders…

When I think of dreamers, a host of historic figures and cultural references comes to mind, but the first 3 to arrive in my mind are, invariably, John Lennon, Martin Luther King Jr., and the song from The Man of La Mancha, “The Impossible Dream.”

John Lennon asked us to “Imagine all the people/Living life in peace/…/A brotherhood of man.” Martin Luther King Jr. told us that he had a dream. His dream fueled an entire civil rights movement and paved the way to a more inclusive future. And “The Impossible Dream” is the anthem for valorous visionaries, with lines like, “And the world will be better for this:/ That one man, scorned and covered with scars,/ Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,/ To reach … the unreachable star …” He’s right, the world is better because of dreamers—those who have the audacity to imagine a better world have the power to create a better world.

If there is one thing we can take away from these famous dreamers, it is that dreaming is essential. Without dreamers, progress is impossible. Someone, somewhere, imagined a world without institutions, a world where everyone could determine the shape of their own life and pursue happiness in whichever way they wanted.

We have made great progress since the days of institutions, but there is always room to grow. If you can dream it, you can do it. Today, I am dreaming about a diverse and inclusive community, where everyone makes their own choices and lives the way they want to live. Dream with me, and maybe one day, someone will blog about you. 



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Filed under Culture, Disability, Inspirational