His legs do not allow him to walk with ease. His speech is sluggish and sometimes incomprehensible. But when he speaks, it’s not hard to hear the emotion. The man, whose roots lie in Mesopotamia tugs at our hearts as he reminisces about his childhood.
“I used to stare out of the window and look at the other kids playing and ask, ‘why me?’, he says. “If it weren’t for my parents, I don’t think I would have had the courage to face life as I did. They taught me to use my muscles and communicate. They encouraged me, taught me to look at the positive. With their love, I was grateful to be alive and breathing.”
The seemingly mundane task of using one’s muscles is an everyday challenge for Brian Dawood. The reason – he has cerebral palsy.
“When I was in school, I was separated. I didn’t fit in. Perhaps, I still don’t”, Brian tells us as he adjusts himself in his wheel chair. “Anytime people look at me, they look with pity in their eyes.”
It was perhaps the same pity that trapped him in the web of tokenism. When he finished school, he was a stopgap dishwasher in restaurants for when the regulars needed a break. Managers eventually determined they didn’t need Brian anymore.
Four and a half years ago, he got into an institution that taught him life skills. The regularly conducted motivational classes helped him gain confidence and a sense of independence that we so often take for granted. The institution gave him a purpose.
Continuing to fight on a daily basis, Brian Dawood today mentors kids with physical disabilities. He teaches them to celebrate their uniqueness and know they are different but no less than anyone else.
“I know what they are going through and I tell them to roll with the punches. Sharing my experience with them allows me to get closer and actually make a difference.”
Brian will be heading back to college starting this fall, to complete a diploma program in community development.
“With the diploma, I hope to get a job in an institution where I too, can help another Brian who may need me.” Brian attributes his sense of compassion for those needing help to his own physical condition. “How would I ever know and understand what people with physical and mental challenges are feeling if I was a fully able bodied person?” Brian leaves no stone unturned to be there for those who need him, to make sure he leaves them with a smile on their face. Volunteering every week, Brian makes sure he imparts the same confidence to students with disabilities that is needed to stand tall in this world. A confidence that he received while he was a student.
“It’s my turn to give back. I’m playing a tiny part but as long as I can put a smile on a face, I am happy.”
Brian has found a semblance of peace. However, he has a grievance with society. Every time he looks into its eyes, he is haunted by the glare of pity.
“You and I are sitting here together. The difference is that when it’s time to go, you will walk out of that door while I will leave on this chair,” he says. An innocent smile breaks out on his face as he quips, “I may even be faster than you.”
“Our society does not look past our disability. I want people to look at who we are.”
In his effort to change society’s attitude he was part of a 5k run/walk to raise money for United Way. “It’s high time people stopped looking at our wheelchair and looked at us.”
Most of us fail to look beyond our busy lives. We are caught up in the rat race chasing what the world wants us to chase.
But for those who cannot answer the question ‘why should I?’, Brian has an answer.
“Why not fight for a cause?”
HPR is inspired by your dogged determination and positive attitude. We wish you all the luck for your future endeavours.
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