My photographer friend Amanda Van Meter Burch reached out to me and told me I should interview Ashley. I gave a big YES! We quickly created a group on Facebook and discussed a photo shoot. I sent Ashley my clothing, and Amanda volunteered (out of the kindness of her heart) to shoot it. Okay, let's just hear that again, she volunteered to shoot for FREE. I am so blessed for those who love my mission and want to participate in a way to spread these messages of hope. I feel so loved and embraced and when these situations happen. I know that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing….
I asked Ashley if she would share her story with me and she gave me a big YES in return. With no hesitation, she wanted to share her story.
I learned many lessons and here are just some of them.
- Don’t assume. When you see someone with some kind of difference, don’t assume you know what happened to them, what they need or don’t need, and what you can or cannot say. I thought that Ashley had lost an arm, but she was born this way. We never know what a person went through and what caused their situation.
- Don’t treat a person with a different ability as incapable of doing things. How do we think they manage when we are not right there to save them? Ashley shared a situation that had happened very recently. She was in a public bathroom changing her daughter’s diaper when out of the restroom stall came a woman to ask Ashley if she needed help. Ashley politely said no but the person kept insisting. Her daughter is at the age where she is turning and moving a lot, and it created a difficult situation for Ashley. The diaper fell, her daughter got dirty, and she had to manage the entire situation with one arm. The lady kept insisting to help her, but she just wanted the woman to leave and manage alone as she manages every day. We need to understand that people with different abilities also create ways to manage life, as we are not there every moment to save them. Nor would they want us to be. They are strong, resilient, and they figure things out.
- Don’t stare. If you are curious, ask. Approach the person and inquire if it would be all right to ask questions, that your reason is to learn and be more educated and not just curiosity. If the person is not comfortable, they will say so. Staring, as if they are weird, is very painful for them. As it would be for us, if anyone was staring at you or me for anything different going on with us. They see us staring.
- Animals are therapeutic. I actually visited a location in South Florida a couple of years ago called Bit by Bit, and they use horses for therapy. It is amazing to see the progress kids and adults make when working with a horse. Ashley was lucky to have horses on the farm where she lived, and her mother was a riding teacher. Ashley said she never felt alone; she never felt misunderstood by the horses. They didn’t care that she didn’t have two arms. They cared that she was kind to them. Don’t underestimate the healing power of animals and nature in general.
The relationship of sisters is so complex, in this case way more (and twins). I was very curious about their relationship. I was so happy to hear that Ashley and her sister are good friends and love each other. Ashley’s sister was her protector in the early days. Middle school was surely complicated, but Ashley sees how in many ways her sister received less attention from her parents, which also caused pain in her heart. As parents, it’s so hard to give the child without different abilities the same attention, but they expect to get it. So, it is a test for the parents as well.
Ashley’s sister became a rebel at one point in her life. She quit many of her activities, while Ashley did not have the distraction of boys and was getting ahead in sports. I always say that our differences and our hardships are exactly what make us more special, unique, and wise. This is a classic situation, and because Ashley’s difference is physical, it is so easy to see and understand.
I asked Ashley if she can support her husband and vice versa, since despite both having missing limbs, their story is different and unique to each other. Ashley said that he has phantom pains, which she doesn’t, and in this way their situation is different. He also remembers having limbs, while for Ashley, this has been her reality since birth. In so many other ways, they can support one another. They are there to speak and stand up for each other, as well as caress their short arms and feel loved and protected. Her husband has a right hand, Ashley has a left hand, and they know they really complete each other.
To follow Ashley go here: www.instagram.com/OrlandoCyborgAshley
To learn more about Lucky Fin go here: www.luckyfinproject.org
Photo by Amanda Van Meter Burch https://avyphoto.com/
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