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This Funny Zach Anner Video Makes a Serious Point About Disability and the Holidays

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Whether you have cerebral palsy, as I do, or another disability, you can probably relate to both the humorous and more serious aspects of Zach Anner’s new video in partnership with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation.

Holiday cooking can be both fun and frustrating when you have a disability. When I was little and my cakes were lopsided and my cookies had all the sprinkles stuck to one edge, it was cute. As a 40-something adult… not so much. There are lots of gadgets to make cooking and crafting easier, but ultimately, a lot of what we make is going to be different, because we are different. But is that really a bad thing?

When I was a kid, my grandfather lived with us, and one of our holiday traditions was making a gingerbread house. My contributions were always a little wonky, and his became so too as he got older and lost his vision. But looking back on it now, I don’t feel sad that our gingerbread houses didn’t look like the picture on the box. I feel grateful that my grandpa was there to cook wonderful recipes passed down from his German parents, tell me stories of his childhood when horses and carriages still filled the streets of New York City, and that I had a chance to know such an amazing person for the last 19 of his 97 years on this earth. I can’t see a gingerbread house without remembering him.

When I wrapped presents for my family, the tape was crooked and I could never get the edges tight around the box. I was always frustrated that I could never get gifts to look “right.” But to my parents, every present was right, because it was a gift from their daughter, and the love I put into wrapping it was more important than whatever was inside. These days I’ve discovered the wonders of gift bags, but I’ve also realized I shouldn’t be ashamed of those unevenly wrapped boxes. Sometimes the imperfections are what make something beautiful.

As people with disabilities, it can sometimes feel like we need more than we can give in return. Even if we’ve developed self-confidence and pride in who we are, when the holidays roll around, memories may come flooding back of times we were told in subtle and not-so-subtle ways by society and even those who profess to love us that we are a burden. It can be frustrating having to educate family members about our needs over and over again, as we wonder what we can bring to the table. It can be depressing to see Tiny Tim and all the images of sad, sick kids and then have people look at you and assume you should be pitied. It can feel especially shameful — even though it shouldn’t — to need and accept help from family, friends and charities at this time of year.

The #HolidaysAreHard when you have a disability, there’s no way around it. But we do have something to give. Everyone does. We can give our time. We can give our support, our friendship, our love. We can mentor others who are facing a new diagnosis and teach them how to navigate the health care system, advocate for their rights, and succeed despite their challenges. We can give patience to loved ones who are clueless about our conditions but mean well. We can give kindness to ourselves by accepting that it’s OK to say “no” to toxic relatives or holiday activities that are just too much to handle. The gifts we give from the heart are priceless — whether they cost $100, $1 or nothing at all, whether they’re wrapped all crooked or can’t be put in a box.

So however you celebrate this year, please remember: it is enough. You are enough. Happy Holidays.

Originally published: December 22, 2018
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