Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rosie O'Donnel, Oprah Winfrey and Imagination

I've been thinking a lot about callings and destiny today. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that Oprah's last show is today and although I've only watched her show a few times I have admired her. Her impact on the world is undeniable. She believes she had a calling to do what she does, and I believe she is right.

I spent a day at my gram's house when I was twelve. I was sick and laid on her couch all day. I channel surfed into an Easter special on The Rosie O'Donnell show. There was a precocious child doing an art project with Rosie. Rosie was known as "the queen of nice" at the time. This was before she came out, before she became a controversial, butt of jokes. She was handing out scholarships to teens and sending foster children to Broadway plays. She was making dreams come true. I was immediately drawn to her.

Rosie was also living a dream come true. A poor, motherless teen had become a celebrity. She imagined she could change the world and she did just that. She inspired me. She still inspires me. We did not have a lot when I was a child with a disabled father and four younger siblings, but it never stopped me from believing I could change the world. It never slowed the power of my imagination. Rosie fueled that fire within me.

I believe I was destined for the job I am doing now. I don't believe I will do it forever, but I believe that at this point in my life this is my calling. These children have come into my life for a reason. I have come into their lives for a reason. I've spent nearly a year teaching one child to tie his shoes, and the feeling I got in my stomach when he did it successfully for the first time last month was indescribable. It seems so small, but anyone who knows and loves a child with a disability understands how huge something so simple can be. He has the opportunity to grow up to be a productive member of society, and I've got the beautiful and humbling responsibility of helping him on that path. I've never felt better about the work I was doing.

I lived in my daydreams as a child. This is why the word "imagine" is so important to me. My imagination has always been my greatest asset. I believe I've written before that I worry I can't make all of my dreams come true because life is too short, but that won’t stop me from trying. I want to write, I want to inspire, and I want to change the world for the better. Cliché? Maybe. I don’t care. The key is that no one has ever shot down my daydreams, and I won't allow them to now. Never once in my childhood did my family tell me my dreams were too big. When I said I wanted to star on Broadway, they watched me sing in the kitchen. When I said I wanted to become a famous author my gram drove me to a camp in New York state for a writing competition. I’m not rich and I’m not famous. Who knows if I'll be published. But I still dream and I love that I’ve been given the opportunity to dream. No one can take that away from me.

Yesterday on NPR I heard someone say "how can we take away a child's opportunities just because of their parent's flaws?" This person was talking about a child who was slipping through the cracks of the education system because of lack of parental support, but that sentence can go for so many other children in so many other circumstances. The video below shows a young girl who could have easily been lost to the world, and instead she is changing the world. All because Rosie stepped in. Because just one person gave her a chance. Because one person allowed her to dream.

There are so many children that people believe will never amount to anything simply because of where they come from or how they are being raised. “Lost causes.” I believe in these children. I love these children. I want to help them believe in themselves. I want to inspire their dreams and make them believe they can be anything they want to be. Because I truly believe they can. Some people have told me I'm simply idealistic and naive, but imagine the difference in the world if everyone shared my idealistic views. Imagine the impact that could have on society.

Rosie and Oprah were both born into poverty. Both women suffered some sort of abuse and neglect. Both women have made mistakes in this world and been slaughtered by the media for them. Both women could have ended up very different people. But both women have touched countless numbers of lives and the world will never be the same because of them. I would never flatter myself into believing I could be what they are to the world, but I do hope I can change lives in small ways. I hope I can inspire at least a handful of children to imagine a better world. To rise above their circumstances and become better than others expect them to be.

I’m not sure what the future will bring, or if I’ve found a true calling. I’m not sure I will be a published author or that my dreams will come true. But I sure do love where I am right now in the world and I hope to continue on this path. I hope I can change at least one corner of the world. I hope I can inspire people to imagine a better future.


  1. You are a jewel! I enjoyed your comment on Billy Coffey's post about Jimmy and his mother. You did the only thing that none of the other commenters did. YOU gave that mother "the benefit of the doubt." We need to do that kind of thing more often. By the way, I enjoyed your post too. You are doing a great work with the children.

  2. Thank you so much. You are very sweet. I just think it's important to assume the best out of people. You may be disappointed sometimes, but if you assume the worst you will nearly always be given the worst.