I trust everyone had a fabulous Halloween and like me, you are currently riding a sugar high through your week…but let’s not tell my friend and anti-sugar guru Sarah Roberts that or I will get my knuckles rapped! Anyone who knows me well, knows I ABSOLUTELY love Halloween; it’s my favorite holiday and my birthday but more than that I love the freedom of personal expression it provides plus, if I am being completely honest, I also really like free candy! Even at 50 (ish) I still love to dress up and go trick or treating with my grandchildren and it is always the highlight of my year but this year was made even more special by an amazing young woman named Cassandra. We met Cassandra a few months ago via a collaborative effort with Ability NB and have been fortunate enough to get to know her; as a person not as a client! Initially we were just asked to assist with a move but the more we got to know Cassandra the more WE WANTED to do. I would like to introduce you to her this week, explain how she has impacted our lives and tell you how she helped make this Halloween/Birthday one of the best in recent memory.
First let’s get a little background out of the way-Cassandra was at TreeGo one day a few years back when she was only 22 years old and suffered a debilitating stroke that has left her with long-term physical disabilities. Every day is a struggle for her, and every day she fights to reclaim her life. Yes she has mobility issues and Yes she has many challenges ahead of her BUT she also has an amazing spirit, a strong will and a loving, joyful heart. Every day she continues to get up, show up and pushes herself to achieve her recovery goals. She is beautiful, smart and so funny! Fiercely independent and artistically gifted, she still lives her life to the fullest of her capabilities. Cassandra asks us for very little; the occasional drive, help with hanging pictures or my personal favorite-decorating for Halloween. Never financial or material resources but simple everyday things that our friends, neighbors or families would help us with. The kind of stuff that not only enriches or improves her quality of life but keeps her connected to her community as well. I know I say it a lot but I am going to say it again; one of the real blessings of Linking Lives for us is that we get the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people who greatly influence our work and just make us better people. Cassandra is one of those people.
So here’s the story….
A few days before Halloween Maegan called me so excited she could hardly get the words out but between screaming children, barking dogs and my awesome Mom-speak deciphering skills I was able to determine this was as a result of a phone call from Cassandra. After several minutes of back and forth I happily discovered the cause for all the excitement; Cassandra wanted to go trick or treating with us!! Now, this might not seem like that big of a deal to you but for us it was HUGE. This touched us deeply because, from our perspective, it meant we were no longer just “service providers” in her eyes; we were her friends. People she trusted and felt comfortable enough with to invite herself along on a family outing. Oh my heart….I literally was overcome with emotion. She told Maegan that she loved Halloween and hadn’t been able to get out to enjoy it in a while, then added, “with my costume on no one will know how old I am so I can get some candy too”- which we found hilarious! We met at her place Halloween night and as you can see from the picture her costume was amazing, then just as we were leaving Cassandra sets the tone for the evening by stating “let’s go get some candy, double if they have stairs.” See what I mean…funny!! She has a way about her that puts you at ease and that allows you to know HER and not her disability. Self-disclosure; I have always been slightly awkward in dealing with seniors or those with obvious disabilities, which I know sounds terrible but truthfully it stems only from my fear of doing something wrong or the risk of offending that person in some way unwittingly. Maegan says no matter the condition, or age I just holler at people when I encounter that dynamic which frequently applies to my approach in attempting to communicate with anyone whose first language is not English as well…I am working on it, but I digress. The point is this has never been the case with Cassandra and because of who she is, I have grown as a person in this regard and will be better with those interactions in the future. Cassandra has taught me that the differences between us are minute and negligible and her openness in discussing her story was truly a gift.
“This definitely happened last night because of Linking Lives. I definitely want to thank Rebecca Graham for steering me in their direction! If I was the way used to be I definitely wouldn’t have gone out. That’s one of the things that disappointed me about growing up no more trick or treating; but I went out last night! It was mainly for the candy! I said if they have stairs then double the Candy LOL
I already have my costume picked out for next year, I’ll give you a hint, it has to do with Game of Thrones!”-Cassandra
So I ask you; who is helping who here?
That is what the potential gain is of volunteer work is friends; it provides us with the chance for untold personal growth, joy, contentment, gratitude and an abundant source of love. My kids say (often) that I am getting sappy in my old age but I don’t agree, I actually think this recent influx of sentimentality correlates directly to the many amazing experiences we have had thus far with Linking Lives. The people we have met, the relationships we have developed and the successes we have achieved have confirmed what I have always so desperately wanted to believe; people are basically good, kind and compassionate and nowhere more so than in Fredericton NB!! We have never posted a need that went unmet or held an event that went unattended. Every single time we ask you for help you respond with such generosity that we often feel overwhelmed by it and our volunteer team is growing weekly as more and more of you get involved. How great is that?? Seriously we CAN DO THIS; we can regain our sense of community and “make Fredericton great again” (sorry I had to do it)
Coming Up Next…
Over the next 6 weeks or so we will be focusing on our Christmas Sponsorship Campaign; this year we will be partnering with Scott McKay and the great folks at Sound for Change in order to reach out to as many families as possible! So again we need your help Fredericton; we are looking for volunteers to assist with organizing, pick-up and delivery drivers, offices/work places willing to run fundraisers on our behalf and of course, donations (gifts, food, grocery cards, or decorations for example). We would love to hear from you with some suggestions on fun, innovative holiday themed fundraising ideas; what would you like to attend or be part of? What can we do to motivate you to get involved? I can promise you that if you attend one event, volunteer for one project or meet a few of the people we are working with you will be hooked!! There is no feeling like it ❤ Maria
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members, a heart of grace and a soul generated by love.”-Coretta Scott King