Each of us has the ability to be a bridge to equality

August 27, 2010 

Before writing this month's column, I made a pledge to myself. This month's column was going to be different. I'm not going to point fingers or lecture. I'm not going to exploit this space in order to expose all of the many societal ills that seem to pervade our culture. Lastly, and perhaps most significant to me, I'm going to avoid altogether the quicksand I have come to know as political correctness.

As a consumer of equality not only for myself, but for others as well, I find myself so consumed with the struggle to achieve it, I too quickly dismiss progress. Not only that, my idea of what actually constitutes progress is so narrow.

Sometimes, I allow myself to mistakenly believe that tangible progress is signified by the passage of the next bill — that somehow, by the stroke of a pen, all the wrongs of inequality will be made right.

Along with a new law, I lull myself into the fairy tale that hearts and minds of others will change in response to it. In the midst of this admittedly idealistic fantasy world, in the end, I face disappointment: No matter how well-intentioned a law or the public is, true and authentic progress isn’t marked by the act of the Legislature and its ensuing obligatory compliance.

True and authentic progress isn’t marked by the litigious lawyer or eloquent advocate. In fact, I have come to realize something far different and much more impactful: True and authentic progress finds itself carved out in the everyday and by those who build a bridge for others so that equality can be realized. Truly, I have an abundance of blessings when it comes to the human personification of this. I have a wonderful, supportive and loving family. I also have a rewarding career matched with dedicated co-workers.

Beyond that, there are the less obvious suspects — those who, rather than speak for their work, they let their work speak for itself. They are, above all else, humble.

And they have one more thing in common too: an unbridled dedication to make certain that those whom they serve are treated with the dignity they deserve. In doing so, whether they realize it or not, they are that bridge to equality; that bridge which links what is written into the lifelessness of a law’s words to a life with rich meaning, fulfilled promise and above all else, equality.

To you, Gary Drowshe, I’m sure you make Intercity Transit proud with your impeccable safety record and your on-time performance. And while those are undoubtedly benchmarks of the outstanding driver you are, they don’t really tell the real story.

They don’t tell the story of what it means to me when you greet me with your infectious smile and your cavernous belly laugh and in doing so, I realize that I’m not a piece of cargo you haul around for a paycheck.

And to you, Jim Sibbett, there was a time not so long ago that because of the level of care I needed, I had no choice but to go to work wearing adult briefs because I didn’t have staff arranged to take me to the bathroom when I needed to go.

Those days are now a thing of the past. Because of your flexibility and commitment to human dignity, I go to work free of pain and humiliation and in doing so, I have the privilege of having a satisfying career. And while we don’t have the opportunity to work together anymore, your vision continues and my family and I are forever grateful.

Shawn Murinko is the state Department of Transportation’s ADA compliance officer and serves as a commissioner on the state Human Rights Commission. A member of The Olympian’s Diversity Panel, Murinko, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, can be reached at smurinko@comcast.net.

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