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True Freedom
Written by Paul Landis Delaune

     My soul leaps for joy and shouts  Yippee!  when I get up in the morning.  I donít like
staying in bed long because I canít do much except talk on the phone or just lay there
lost in thought.  But once Iím in my wheelchair there is so much I can do.  I can
move around; sit at my desk reading, writing, being on my computer; go into the living
room and watch TV or play my stereo; or go outside.  Being in my wheelchair is my freedom.

     The main lesson I have learned from being paralyzed is that true freedom isnít
determined  by oneís physical circumstances. Instead itís a state of mind. When one
is free in oneís mind, then one is freer than the birds that fly through the air. I belong to
the board of  directors of the local center for independent living, which assist people
who have disabilities to be more independent. Ed Roberts, the founder of the independent
living movement, lived almost all his life in an iron lung, yet he experienced the true
meaning of freedom moreso than many people who have no severe physical limitation.

     Once I believed true freedom was only possible by living as independently as
I could be. This meant being employed and earning a salary to support myself. For years
that was my dream. I studied long and hard to achieve that goal. Little did I know that
obtaining employment would be next to impossible and never would I earn a salary
that would enable me to pay the regular expenses of housing, utilities and food as well as
the extra cost of paying people to do my personal care.

     The day came when I turned to studying material regarding the spirit and soul, and
my life changed. My goal shifted from a focus of trying to obtain something outside of
myself to complete my life to seeking to enhance my peace of mind from within, from
my spirit. The shift in perspective didnít occur overnight it took months, years even,
and the shift wasnít necessarily easy. But it was a shift I was destined to make.

     It has been a slow process, but I am no longer the person I was when I started. I see
the world through different eyes, a world that has changed for me as my view of
myself and life shifted. Now I know we live in an interdependent world, an
interdependent society. The wealthy people of this world need you and me to buy
their products for them to have what they do just as I need their taxes to pay for
the programs that enable me to live outside of an institution. Interdependence rules.

     Sometimes Iím amazed by the contradictions in life. For example: once an aide, who
did my personal care, said to me, Paul, when I look in your refrigerator, I donít see
anything, yet you always have food to eat. But when I look in my refrigerator at home, i
tís full, but I canít find anything to eat.  I may not be a wealthy man, but I am happy. A
couple of my close friends have told me that I am a rich man. Freedom, happiness, peace
of mind it all comes from within. Find these within yourself and you will be rich, too.