“Then God formed the [hu]man from the dust of the ground. God breathed the breath of life into the [hu]man’s nostrils, and the [hu]man became a living person.” (Genesis 2:7)
Like many Arkansans I suffered from chronic asthma. I was born with it and my life was full of asthma attacks as a child. So, I spent very little time outdoors. Unable to fully interact with other children, when I was given opportunities to play, my family always reminded me to carry my “inhaler” to avoid attacks. For me, asthma became a physical disability that severely limited my interactions with my family at home and my friends in the community. Now, I realize that every breath is dependent upon my access to clean air and I remember the places where I lived in Little Rock, Arkansas. These communities were near industrial sites, airports or waste management facilities, the kinds of places that provide the most affordable housing for low-income people.
As a teenager, I decided to accept this unjust reality no longer. Instead, I developed the courage to confront my dis-ease through proper nutrition and consistent exercise. I joined the track team at my middle school and became a long-distance runner. In the beginning, my inhaler was always a part of my life and I took it to every practice and track event. After three years, my lung capacity increased and I was no longer dependent on my inhaler during competitions. With proper nutrition and exercise, I overcame the odds of being a male child whose living near environmental toxins would destine him to cope with lifetime asthma.
Now, having lived 22 years without medication, I have recovered from the solitude, isolation and limited interactions of my childhood. In moments when health disparities take my breath away, I find breath to respond to health inequalities, realizing that I must be concerned about the welfare of my community as well as my own health. A life with asthma demands that we develop the courage to live from breath to breath. We can respond to each breath-taking experience by not accepting our physical limitations and by recovering a healthy and responsible way of removing social injustices from our neighborhoods.
Invitation to Reflect
- What are the limitations you have placed on your life because of your asthma that can be overcome by proper nutrition and exercise?
- When in your life do you see the need to respond with courage to live healthily and responsibly with asthma
- Do you remember a moment in your life when a social injustice took your breath away? How did you respond?
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