My first dose of empathy was given to me by my mother. She was born with cerebral palsy, something she wouldn't know until the age of 54 when an orthopedic surgeon told her... after her first joint replacement. Growing up, she knew she was different, always hurting physically, but never, ever complained. She is strong, an incredible role model of someone who suffers daily, sometimes teased by peers as a child, but she never makes excuses. She's never walked a balanced step in her life, but as a teenager she car-hopped for her parent's drive-in business without complaint. She took regular PE even though running and sports "just weren't her thing".
She never wore beautiful high heels. I remember when she took me shoe shopping for my 6th grade continuation. Tears filled her eyes as she watched me walk in my 2 inch heels. She was so happy that I was able to walk in them without stumbling, without pain; something she had never done. She cheered me on at my sporting and music events, things she didn't have the coordination to do. There is so much more my mom wanted for me, like a college education and being able to stand on my own two feet...in beautiful shoes.
I credit my mom for starting me on a path that helps me see others for who they are, not who they are not. I've always had a heart for people, especially children. I became a teacher to help children learn. I became an administrator to be their voice, their advocate, and sometimes their accountability. Having my mother show me so much helped me see children for their potential, not their limitations. Throughout my career, I've been able to help provide opportunities, whether online learning, summer school, gifted programming, or alternative programming for children who needed someone to see the possibilities. I can't do that without trying to see life from their perspective, by trying to walk in their shoes...Thanks, mom!
Lori Benton- Ph.D, Director of Assessment and Gifted Education Lewis-Palmer School District #38