July 29, 2019

Leaning Into the Future

By Jonathan Sigworth, Co-CEO & President of More Than Walking

I read a headline recently talking about how society suffers from being locked into short-term thinking. Wars rage and the planet burns while we fret over moment-to-moment emotions, tweets and headlines. Meanwhile, a team in Texas is trying to build a mechanical clock that will last for 10,000 years. Hmm. I'd like to strive for a practical and meaningful middle ground. Maybe today you're anxious that what you have to give won't be good enough. Tomorrow too? Probably. This time next month, next year? Who knows. So much can happen in a moment, for better or worse, and those of us already living with disabilities especially can attest to that.

In 2006 at 19, I was running late to class when my bicycle slipped and I tumbled down a cliff in India, becoming paralyzed below my arms and in my hands. I met my wife Jessica on Facebook in 2013 - not what I expected when I checked my messages that morning and shared my independent living experience with a physical therapist in Colombia. In 2017, we co-founded More Than Walking Inc. to film and share stories and experiences of people living with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities to promote independence - a dream I've had since my C7 complete injury.  With these videos we produce remotely via video calls and share across social media and at www.morethanwalking.com, we hope to connect newly injured and disabled around the world to local peer mentors and the community resources they rely upon.

For me, being a disability advocate is about promoting the idea that living with disability is what makes us human - we all are and will become more disabled. So what then? Let’s do what we were born to do. Live life with independence, choosing our own paths, and fighting for each-other’s well being, not just our own.  This is the mindset that More Than Walking operates in and invites participants to embrace.

For the first time since we married 3 years ago, Jessica and I were back in Colombia for two weeks in July, reconnecting with family, friends, and as always being advocates for independence among everyone we meet. And that is so important because none of us know what's going on in others' lives, whether they're in a wheelchair or apparently abled-bodied. The other day I asked help from a walking man to open the handle-less door to a parking garage. As he let me through and I went for my car, he was surprised I could drive. As I handed him a More Than Walking card to see videos of other things people with SCI can do, he said: "Thank you, I'll keep this because I may need this too. I have MS and don't yet know which path my life will take me."

So here's to all of us here, surviving today but living and striving for the long-term, for a Good that outlasts and overwhelms all the bad that could surround us at any moment. Cheers!

*Jonathan Sigworth's wife (see photo), Jessica Bello Capote, is Co-CEO & Secretary of More Than Walking. For more information, visit www.morethanwalking.com.Additional links include www.youtube.com/c/morethanwalking and www.facebook.com/morethanwalking.

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