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Cindy Klahr
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Knowing Someone with SCI 

What can I say about Shelly?  She is a wonderful, and inspiring person.  I knew Shelly before she had her accident.  My son, Benjamin, was in 3rd or 4th grade at the old Ebenezer Elementary School.  Shelly became his teacher at the end of that year, when Mr. Salters took a sabbatical.  Ben liked Mr. Salters, but he loved Miss White.  She was a young, energetic teacher who did cool science projects.  Ben loved math and science – those were his favorite.  In fact, Ben, is in his 3rd year of college at Shippensburg, majoring in Chemistry and Secondary Education.  That was a great year for Ben. 

Time passed on – I know one time I saw Shelly at FoodKart (I don’t remember if any of my boys were with me.)  Then we heard about the accident and read it in the paper.  I couldn’t believe it.  But I thought – Shelly will be OK.  But then I heard, she was paralyzed from the waist down.  I told Ben about his elementary teacher.  We were really shocked.   

Some years went by, then I started to work at Ebenezer Elementary substituting in the office for Barb and Sandy, the girls in the office.  This was the first I saw Shelly since her accident.  I felt awkward, I didn’t know what to say.  But you know what, I didn’t have to say anything – Shelly smiled and started to talk and asked about Ben. I realized, I didn’t have to treat her differently.  She was still the same Miss White (Shelly) Ben and I knew years before.

I always liked to greet or see Shelly in the office or in the hallway, she always had a smile on her face.  Some days when I was having a tough day (raising 3 energetic boys), it was not always easy to smile.  But then I think of Shelly, and think “Smile” and be happy for the day God gave you.  Shelly was not the first person I have ever known with a spinal cord injury.  There is a church member at our church, with a spinal cord injury also.  But Shelly is the first person on a wheelchair that I can say, we have become friends.

Last year, I was still working at Ebenezer as a 2nd grade teacher’s aide, when a job opened up to work with Shelly.  I was asked if I wanted to be her teacher’s aide. At first I thought, I would love working with Shelly.  But then I thought about her being on a wheelchair, and I was a little afraid of what I would have to do.  But I went into her room and helped her with different things, and decided to be her teacher’s aide.  My first couple of weeks, I wasn’t sure how much I was supposed to help Shelly, because she was trying to get through her piles of papers, but after a while I felt comfortable just going ahead and doing things for Shelly when I could see she was having trouble with certain things.  Working with Shelly, gave me a greater understanding of people with disabilities.  When you are with Shelly awhile, you don’t see the wheelchair.  You see the happy, kind-hearted, and optimistic person Shelly really is.  The accident didn’t change Shelly as a person, it just changed her physical body.  She is still a beautiful person – that I am so glad that I got to know better and became friends with her.  Working with Shelly at school, was so inspiring.  You can tell she loves to teach.  Some days, she didn’t feel that great – but she pushed on and once she started to interact with the kids, she was OK for the day.  And her students thought she was just wonderful.  Some years, she didn’t have easy classes.  She had students that needed a lot of attention and so much extra help – and she gave the students what they needed.  When those kids left her room, they knew that Miss White really cared about them.

Well, I have moved on to another job, I am not as dedicated to teaching as Shelly is.  When I decided I couldn’t work as a teacher’s aide, I felt like I was letting Shelly down – but it had nothing to do with Shelly personally.  I felt so guilty – but here again, Shelly, was very understanding and said you have to do what you have to do.

In closing, I am so glad that the opportunity opened up for me to work with Shelly a short time.  I believe that things happen in your life for a reason, and I am so grateful that I had a chance to work with Shelly.  It has made me stop and think and appreciate everything that happens in your life – some days it may not seem like such a great thing, but you get through it.  I feel so fortunate to know Shelly and to consider her one of my great friends – even though everybody’s lives get so busy and you don’t talk for awhile – but then when you do – it’s just like old friends catching up again.  Keep up the great work, Shelly!!

Cindy Klahr