Stretch Zone Living

Every human being has the capacity to stretch, learn from falls and grow as human beings. However, nurturing potential involves risks. Haven’t most of us taken significant risks with the goal is of achieving better? Chasing better jobs, relationships, lifestyles and more can be exhilarating, yet it doesn’t always work out as planned. There is an inherent dignity in taking risks—preferably calculated risks. As adults we understand that accepting risks and taking leaps of faith might work out better than imagined, fail miserably or land somewhere in between. Even when our venture fails miserably, it typically is accompanied by invaluable life lessons.

How much we exercise our human capacity is dependent on life opportunities and motivation. For those of us privileged with relative autonomy, there is a lifetime of abundant opportunities. Beginning in childhood we are introduced to the dignity of risk, earn scars from falls and expand our horizons. A common example is parents holding their breath and releasing control over their teetering youngster’s two-wheel bike. From such experiences both parents and child learn to navigate daily life—experiencing success and failure, recognizing danger signs, taking responsibility for our actions and trusting in our ability to spread our wings.

Parents like me who seek a life of inclusion for children with disabilities understand vulnerability and fight the invitation to be risk averse. Being risk averse, with its focus on protection rather than personal growth is highly reinforced by entrenched societal patronization. With brave hearts and eyes wide open we dare pursue the ingredients for an ordinary life: value and contribution—meaningful relationships, valued social roles and a sense of belonging. For our vulnerable sons and daughters, those elements are what arm our family members, fostering opportunities to spread their wings and be as independent as possible. On my deathbed I’ll be comforted knowing that my son is embedded in community as an engaged citizen who exercises his rights and responsibilities. Who could ask for more?

Susan Dunnigan

December 2021