Wednesday, July 20th, 2016 people across the web celebrated friendship using the hashtag “#FriendshipIs.” National Inclusion Project promoted the “friendship is” initiative. As explained in-part on their website, “Making friends is often the fastest way for a child to be included. With friends, we have a companion who is there with us to play, grow and learn.”
Yet friendship is so much more. Friends remain a major defense against bullies. Plus friends encourage, comfort, and inspire. Since so valuable, I desired to continue celebrating. Today I detail friendship’s aforementioned benefits. By post end you may conclude friendship overpowers cerebral palsy.
Friendship is a major defense against bullying.
Thankfully growing up I dealt with very little bullying. A statement I wished every person with cerebral palsy could say. Unfortunately, too often bullies target those with disabilities. Here friends can step up.
If you read my CP memoir Off Balanced, you may recall the following. Set scene. My friend Annie and I inside our college’s rec center playing ping pong. Someone walks in and begins laughing at my lackluster ping pong skills. Annie speaks up and the person shuts up. BOOM!
Friendship is encouragement.
In a way Annie’s actions encouraged. Without them deterrence and self-consciousness may dominated the day. More recently I enjoyed encouragement from another friend.
Perhaps no one exudes work ethic better than my friend Michael Mannozzi. Michael’s hard work helped him become a highly decorated race-walker. National champion and multi-time Team USA member tops his many accolades.
Now I tell you this not to brag on Michael. Rather I am setting context. Currently I am training to complete a half marathon (13.1 miles). At the moment I am built up where I can walk 10 miles. When I first started training, I gassed out at four-and-a-third miles.
Respecting my efforts Michael gifted me a USA Track and Field Olympic team bib customized with my name. Quite a compliment when you consider Michael’s tremendous athletic accomplishments.
Friendship is comforting.
Encouragement much like success in math requires a foundation. You stand no chance in calculus if you cannot master algebra. All the encouragement proves useless until you establish self-confidence.
Without self-confidence you find ways to dismiss encouraging words. “Oh! He is just being nice.” “Yeah, but I am nothing compared to her.” Enter the need for comfort. Comforting actions from friends slowly fuels self-confidence.
To offer an example I recall my departed friend Alex. Again referencing my memoir, Off Balanced readers know my CP used to provide me serious social anxiety. Outside select friends I experienced negative self-talk. Alex became the first person outside those select few I re-connected with post high school.
Upon our first time hanging out in 2011 though, negative thoughts crept into my mind. “I apologize if I’m boring you” I blurted out.
“What? Why would you say that?” Alex responded. His reaction seemed genuine. Alex’s shock at my comment relaxed my social anxieties and gave me self-confidence.
Friendship is inspiring.
Finally, friendship inspires. Conversation with friends leads to new ideas. A friend could suggest a new way to create accessibility. An outside perspective can bring fresh solutions after all.
Personally the inspiration I extract from friends manifests as advocacy initiatives. My impersonation series stands out for instance. My friend James (aka IBBJames) supplied the domino effect. His feedback to my exercise montage “If Rocky Balboa had cerebral palsy…” triggered everything. “You should do other celebrity videos.”
Honestly, I titled my exercise montage “If Rocky Balboa had cerebral palsy…” in an attempt to stir curiosity. James however saw greater possibilities. He furthered my title into a concept. Friends will inspire you to further yourself.
Friendship defends against bullies. Additionally friendship encourages, comforts, and inspires. What might you add to the list? Leave a comment below and share what friendship is to you.
*Link to Off Balanced’s Amazon sales page connected with the Amazon LLC Associate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.