Unimaginable Perseverance

May 9, 2009

3 min read


Brooke Ellison is a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down, and she's running for NY State senator.

Everyone's life has struggles. Every family has its challenges. No one knows what really goes on behind closed doors. As much as we recognize this to be true, there are days when we feel overwhelmed, days when it all seems too much. I was having one of those days recently -- capped off by my two youngest children absolutely refusing to spend another moment at day camp! -- when I happened across the last page of the Aug/Sept issue of Pink magazine.

It was a brief interview with a woman who is running for New York State senator. No surprise there -- this is a magazine that celebrates the accomplishments of women in the workforce. What was striking was the bio of the woman running. Not your standard political hack, Brooke Ellison is a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down.

Yet her story is one of constant triumph. She was struck by a car on her way home from school in 7th grade, she can't breathe without a respirator, yet she went on to get two degrees from Harvard and is presently working on her Ph.D. at Stony Brook.

"I can't move my body but I can move people."

While at Harvard she delivered the commencement address where she realized her power to move people. I didn't hear the words or see the text but while she may be an articulate speaker, I'm guessing that her real eloquence lies in her example.

I'm guessing that everyone was moved by her determination in the face of such obstacles. What's the most striking of all (and what puts me to shame) is her optimism, her good nature, her boundless cheer.

While us lesser mortals are frequently thrown by broken washing machines and errant housekeepers, Brooke Ellison perseveres undaunted. (I'm sure she has her moments, but so do we!)

She drives her wheelchair through a device operated by her tongue. In fact she seems to use her tongue and the gift of speech exactly as the Almighty intended -- as a way of helping others. When speech is one the only gifts you have, I suspect you use it wisely (and I doubt you waste any of it on gossip!)

Ms. Ellison comments that she lives her life with hope. Despite her challenges she's focused on the positive. As she says, "I can't move my body but I can move people."

She's certainly moved me. The cracked walls and crumbling paint seem a lot less important. Even the sound of whining children is music to my ears…well, I'm working on it!

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