Cultivating Quality

Deeply personal, quality is felt in the marrow of our bones. True quality never lies in the superficial glitter of material possessions, wealth or power. Terms such as exciting and carefree may reflect memorable times, but don’t capture the broader life experience.

Wildly diverse in expression, quality lives are grounded. They share traits of human connectedness, choice and belonging. That solid foundation helps us flourish and weather inevitable stormy times. It’s real and personal as it gets.

Societally, quality masquerades as living life large, wrapped in tangible bling and pleasures. Yet, beneath the bright façade and big smiles, it’s often not so bright. Illusions can unravel fast. For celebrities it often plays out in the public eye. In contrast, some who live simple lives of very limited means, ooze lightness and contentment.

It’s typical that beyond childhood, individuals take the helm and set the direction of their lives. But that’s not a given for someone with a disability, especially a developmental disability. Sadly, the antiquated view of the perpetual child still influences in direct and subtle ways.

Contrary to popular belief, disability itself is not the barrier to a quality life. I’ve met engaging people with profound disabilities who add zest to a room with their presence. The prerequisite is feeling welcomed, valued and connected. Sadly, societal attitudes and assumptions often detract from what should be inviting environments.  Discomfort fuels avoidance and exclusion- impediments to quality interactions.

Loving families crave enriching lives of possibility and belonging for members with disabilities. Yet the struggle to balance life opportunities and risks is challenging. Pursuing quality lives for vulnerable members takes courage and commitment. While the path is unclear there are guideposts. Actively pursuing quality lives takes clarity of vision, awareness, communication, daring and sharing power.

I have a friend who wears this approach as comfortably as an old slipper. Her daughter, who is non-verbal and has multiple challenges, made key decisions with choosing the family car. Actively engaged throughout, Mary’s direct input was sought on potential models and options. Some things were a given. The vehicle needed to be spacious enough to easily accommodate mobility challenges. Ensuring the young woman’s wheelchair folds nicely into the trunk reduced impediments to impromptu outings.

Mary had the final say in selecting the model and colour. She proudly chose the family’s sporty, yet highly functional vehicle. Honouring Mary’s contributions to the family enriches the whole family’s quality of life.

Truth be told, everyday life holds opportunities to cultivate more quality in our lives. The question is will we dare to stretch.

Susan Dunnigan

July 2023