Life is easy to go through without understanding how another individual lives; however, when you open your heart to empathy, you can see a completely different experience. For this post, I want to be the pair of crutches that allows you to walk a mile in another’s shoe. Those particular shoes belong to Leslie, who grew up in the Puget Sound region - long before Seattle was a hot-spot for destination and business. There, she grew in a society that high stigmatized disabilities. That stigma limited many aspects of her life, such as not being allowed to attend high school, which closed a lot of doors in her face in terms of employment and being self-sufficient.

However, at the age of 46, she made the courageous decision to reach out to a local nonprofit, Cares of Washington, which specializes in connecting people of disabilities and low income to employment and community connection. In the first meeting with Cares, Leslie explained her love of gardening and how she tends to the flowers at her caregiver’s house. Cares matched her with the Highline Botanical Garden in order for her to gain skills and provide experience on her resume. However, her experience at the Garden is much more than a resume headline - she has found an access to the community. The photo above shows Leslie (right) with her supervisor Jolly (left), who has given Leslie birthday presents and all the prettiest flowers in the garden; in return, Leslie gives Jolly her best coloring pages and a smile as she prunes the roses.

Employment goes beyond the paycheck; it allows people with disabilities to fight against social isolation and gives them the opportunity to contribute to the world and their community. This #GivingTuesday, Cares of Washington hopes to raise enough money to connect more people to the community, just like Leslie.