I discovered a hero this week. I was flicking through the news for a little catch up on what is happening around the country, when I stumbled over a story on Grace Stratton.
The 17-year-old is a raising social media star and nominee in this years’ Woman of Influence’ awards in the Young Leader category. She’s got more grit than the glut of people sitting neatly under the peak of the Bell Curve because she is already studying and starting up a business.
Oh, and she has cerebral palsy, which means she is wheel-chair bound.
However, young Grace (quite obviously) hasn’t let that hold her back. Incredibly, in fact, she has found a way to use her disability as a way of getting ahead.
She realised early on in life that being disabled meant she got more attention for everything she did. Attention, she realised, was power. And if she had power, then she wanted to use it for good. She wanted to use it to (as her social media byline reads) to “mainstream disability, [and spark] diversity”.
If you’re not sure that this young woman is someone to keep an eye on, then listen to this quote from a recent interview she gave:
“I started the blog because I didn’t hear a voice like mine in the media and I was tired of waiting for it to come about, so I decided to be that voice….Someone’s just got to be brave enough to break down those walls, and I am more than brave enough.”
That’s right. Here’s a kid who has realised at 17 that we need to be the change we want to see in the world, and who has taken the first, bold steps towards doing so.
She hasn’t done it with blame. She hasn’t done it with anger. Instead, Stratton, as per her first name, has done it with grace.
It is an incredibly refreshing approach in a world that feels ever more tribal. These days it almost seems normal to hunker down and hurl insults with the others in our identity group as we all desperately try to prove how wrong the other side is (and by extension, how right we are). Most of the time the bickering seems to centre on who has more evidence that they are a victim, whether it is of sexism, white colonial oppression, or rich people.
So to stumble across someone who has every right to pull the victim card, and yet who chooses to see herself as a victor, is nothing short of inspiring. To find someone who has every right to demand, and yet chooses to find ways she can give, is even better.
It gives us a sneek peek at what the world would look like if we all glanced around and wondered what we could give, instead of what we could get.
The astonishing part of the Stratton story, by the way, is that she doesn’t seem to fully realise just what she is doing. On her YouTube channel she talks of a childhood “surrounded by images of heroes, images of men in capes who save us, but the truth of the matter is that sometimes we cannot be saved from certain circumstances in life…What I needed instead was courage, courage to go out and try, and a true hero is someone who allows you to do this. “
Just by cracking on with life Stratton is allowing others -disabled or not- to see they have something to contribute to the world. She may not realise it, but she already fits her own definition of hero.
This article was first published on Stuff.co.nz