Amber Smith is the epitome of hope, perseverance and strength. At only twenty-three years old, she has overcome life’s hurdles and is standing tall at the end of the tunnel. This is the story of a beautiful extraordinary girl, doing extraordinary things and has become a force to reckon with showing creativity, strength, courage and humility, having triumphed over challenges, inspiring many and proving that disability is not inability.
It was a cold evening and Amber was going to receive the State Humanitarian Award of the year. Everyone was elegantly dressed for the occasion, but Amber stole the show, after all, it was her night. Even though, she was confined to a wheelchair she looked beautiful with her dark hair pinned back and wore a gorgeous blue dress that complemented her piercing blue eyes. The room for the event, in the city’s auditorium, was warm, with many people who supported Amber and celebrate her achievements. Everything was in place and was perfect from the décor, to the flower arrangement, to the selection of the music for the evening.
Amber is not your everyday girl as she reminds me of the likes of Beethoven and Vincent Van Gogh, great people who have accomplished great things despite their disabilities; one cannot help but marvel at their lives. She was born as cerebral palsy victim, hence, her incapability of proper speech (although she can manage) and hindered the deliberate movement of her legs. Despite these challenges, at a young age, she is an excellent journalist, and a great poet and above all her astounding work and efforts of helping others with cerebral palsy and educating the society on the matter are impeccable.
The event was turning out great everyone was staring at Amber more than usual, this time, not because of her condition, but because she was at the podium giving her acceptance speech. The whole room was quiet as everyone listened to her attentively despite her slight problem in the speech she was as eloquent as she could be. She ended her speech showing that she had a sense of humor by quoting the famous children’s book author Dr. Seuss (2003), stating; “Why fit it, when you were created to stand out.” Amber tried to fit in with everyone else, but she realized that she was different, and she was made to stand out because she was special and that she could accomplish a lot with that power.
I wanted to know if she had always been this self driven and determined and if she was not, what was her turning point to becoming who she is today. Amber is the only child to Michael and Anna Smith to have cerebral palsy and grow up in a large, middle class family in Oakland. She has six brothers and sisters who all adore each other, and they see her as their family jewel. She attended school in her hometown at Middleton Academy but was always taught separately in a special class.
While growing up, she never understood why she was different, and why she would constantly get stares from strangers and had a severe case of depression. As a teenager, the constant reminder that she had the condition and that she will always have it was painful as she was always overlooked, discouraged and patronized because she was not “normal”. Meeting people was never in her agenda as she was never eager to see the uneasy reactions of people when they first meet her. Amber constantly felt sorry for herself despite the love and support from her parents. The depression continued to get worse and began to harbor suicidal thoughts.
The turning point of her life was at the age of sixteen. She remembers the day vividly as if it was yesterday, when she picked up the newspaper from the table and saw a picture of the young girl in a swimming pool with a rather unusual but cute smile. She was holding a trophy with a man next to her assuming it was his father, coach or principle. The caption below the photo read, “Despite having cerebral palsy and being in a wheelchair, little Suzy is Hillcrest Academy’s swimming champ”. Her curiosity got the best of her and read the story of a young girl Susan, at the tender age of seven, going through what Amber was going through but instead she chose to accept herself and live her life. Susan was the school’s swimming champion as she loved the water and did not let her disability stop her from doing what she loved. Amber was in awe and could not believe it, and she realized she has been making so many excuses and wasted so much time being upset rather than accepting herself. She described that moment as having an epiphany and she knew what she had to do, change.
Amber realized that the change had to come from within her if she wanted to be happy and she should not wait on miracles or anyone to change her situation. This reminded me of a quote by the current US president Barrack Obama stating, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” (Mazloomi, 2010) For a person to be truly happy, he or she has to change his life accordingly to how he or she sees fit and not wait on anyone to do what he can do.
After quite a long time, Amber’s life turned around. It was very difficult for her to finally accept herself and her condition. That milestone enabled her open opportunities and be the person she was meant to be. She realized that she could also have friends who look beyond her disability and sometimes even forget that she has it or can even have a laugh about it occasionally. She said while looking at the leg braces wrapped around her legs pointing out that they looked funny.
The hardest thing she discovered that she had to deal with was people reactions. Most of the time she would get uneasy reactions rather than the normal reactions from people who either took pity on her or saw her as an inspiration, simply because she has cerebral palsy. At first, she hated it, but she later saw it as a chance for those who viewed her as an inspiration, to bring hope to those who suffer similar conditions or just to inspire everyone. She finally felt she had a purpose for her life and speaking in the words of Elizabeth Cady Stanton with the famous quote that “The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent, then we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.” (Stanton, 2001)This clearly and simply explains that when we think about what others think, then it hinders us from doing what we can, and we will not be able to achieve our life’s goals and dreams.
One of the most important achievements she has made, leading to the event was that she has been working with several hospitals in the state and various nongovernmental organizations that aid the patients of the disease cope with it and enable them to lead a normal life. She is also the face and founder of Happy Life Foundation that seeks to help young children with disabilities, providing an education for them and nurturing their talents so that they can be productive citizens in the future. The foundation has been quite successful, with about three hundred children under its belt, helping and assuring their growth and development.
Amber being an extraordinary girl, accomplishing so much at young age, despite having cerebral palsy, is truly remarkable as she faced her difficulties with accepting herself and pushed through becoming an inspiration to many. Winning the award, proved to her and others that no matter how large or small life’s hurdles may be, no matter what the odds are, with determination and perseverance, anything is possible.
Mazloomi, C. (2010). Journey of hope quilts inspired by President Barack Obama. Minneapolis:
MBI Pub. Co..
Oh, the places you’ll go!. (2003). London: Collins Picture Lions.
SMITH, AMBER. Personal Interview. 14TH JUNE, 2012.
Stanton, E. C. (2001). Solitude of self. Ashfield, Mass.: Paris Press.