Over the last four years, I’ve been honored to work with Lady Gaga’s own Born This Way Foundation. Founded in 2012, the Foundation seeks to “create a kinder and braver world” by creating positive environments, breaking down the stigma of mental health, and making kindness cool.
You may also recall that Lady Gaga visited inpatients at Gillette Children’s Hospital in 2014. I was with her that day, and it will go down as one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. I vividly remember telling Gaga as we walked through the bright and cheery hospital hallways, “I spent a lot of time here growing up,” which made it so important for me to share the work that I get to be a part of with other young people who are going through similar situations as I went through.
Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, I’ve had countless surgeries and procedures for conditions like scoliosis and hip dysplasia, but I’ve undergone other procedures and hospitalizations as well. For instance, the first unit we visited was the inpatient rehabilitation unit – a unit I hadn’t seen in over ten years, when I was basically being brought back from my deathbed. At the time, it looked identical to how I remembered it – right down to the room I stayed in. I cried.
It’s been over three years since that visit, and on Monday, August 21, Gaga made yet another stop in St. Paul for a sold-out show at the Xcel Energy Center. The energy inside the room was different this time, and for good reason – a little less than two years ago, I began walking for the first time. I’ve been sharing my progress with her ever since. In turn, she shared this progress with the audience of thousands, saying, “Today, she told me she has taken 30 steps in a walker.” I fight so incredibly hard for those 30 steps.
In addition to that, though, I was able to go on-stage for her encore of “Million Reasons.” She introduced me to the crowd – which completely roared, mind you – and handed me the mic, allowing me to share words of positivity and kindness with them.
“Turn to the person next to you and tell them that you love them. We need kindness now – more than ever.” It was a surreal and amazing moment that I am so thankful for, and I genuinely hope they obliged. I’d also like to share positivity and kindness with whoever may be reading this.
I see kindness in the doctors and nurses of Gillette, some of whom have quite literally known me since I was an infant. Your gentle, caring manner even in the toughest of times has truly saved my spirit. Thank you.
I see kindness in volunteers who take time out of their day to make the days of others just a little bit better. Thank you. You are so appreciated.
I see bravery in patients who are recovering from surgery, a traumatic injury or – if they are like me – learning to walk for the first time. Thank you, and never give up.
And I see kindness in you. So remember this: share kindness with the world, always. It’s more powerful than you think.