According to USA Gun Violence statistics, more than 30 people are shot and murdered by firearms everyday, resulting to an average of more than 300,000 deaths and injuries per year.
Unfortunately, Mariam Paré was one of them. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time. One minute she was fine and the next minute a bullet struck her spinal cord, and changed her life forever. She incurred C5/C7 damage to her spine that caused her paralysis. Permanently losing her motor skills including the mobility of her upper extremities rendered her a quadriplegic for the rest of her life.
Her story is truly inspirational. Here are some valuable lessons we extracted from her journey:
- Life is short. Don’t take things for granted.
After the tragedy, Mariam had to relearn everything that she has taken for granted, including all the daily activities and the routines that seemed so mundane.
Life is unpredictable and the future is uncertain. Learn to appreciate everything and everyone around you. Live your life to the fullest, but YOLO in moderation.
- Never stop dreaming and keep your passion burning.
Mariam was a promising 20yr. old artist before that violent tragedy, but that didn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams. She could have given up, but instead, she persisted.
It’s easier said than done. As the old adage goes: “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” You have to be in their place to know how it feels like to be disabled – to be limited.
As difficult as that may be, you have to keep moving forward. You are still lucky to be alive. You can still do something. There is always a way to accomplish your goals.
- The quote: “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” By Friedrich Nietzsche, is true.
Mariam embraced her new life with courage and determination. She attended countless therapy and rehabilitation procedures. Through that, she learned how to hold a pencil in her mouth and write her name. That sparked some hope for this remarkable woman. She realized she could paint again. She applied for a scholarship in MFPA (Mouth and Foot Painters Association) an exclusive, and well-respected association of professional artists who paint either by use of their mouth or feet. She practiced for 8 years before calling herself a professional mouth painter. She has produced and sold a number of extraordinary artworks. MFPA is now reproducing her earlier artworks along with the work of other artists, as Christmas card designs, calendars and other products.
- Your family and friends’ support can help you get through those hard times.
Through the help and support of Mariam’s family and friends, she was able to paint again.
Give your support to someone who needs it. Seek for support if you need it. Life is easier when shared with other people.
- Stay positive. Always try to see the good things in every situation.
Mariam earned her degree in Fine Arts and an Associate degree in Graphic Design and Web Design. She has been a member of the MFPA for 8 years, a co-founder of STEAM Studios and a member of the Associate Board at Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. All of these happened because she remained positive despite her condition.
You can’t change the past but you can always choose what to do in the present. You can be proactive and choose to be happy in your current situation. Always see the glass half full. You may be having a bad day, a bad month or a bad year; but it’s not a bad life.
- Count your blessings and be a blessing to other people.
Mariam’s story is an inspiration not only to the disabled and other victims of gun violence, but to all of us. She often shares her journey through public speaking and guest appearances in several news, TV shows and publications. Her strength, courage and unwavering determination are values that we all wish we possess.
Seeing people triumph over adversity is truly a moving experience. They are a constant reminder that it’s never too late to live a more meaningful life.
- Be socially responsible.
Everything you do can potentially affect other people. Let us learn how to peacefully coexist by being socially responsible. You don’t have to display power through gun violence. Actually, it’s not really about the gun; it’s the violence. It can happen to you or your loved ones.
This is a call to all gun owners, cops and for the government as well. For the love of God and all things good, be responsible with your firearms!
Mariam is now a prolific mouth painter. Her amazing talent and exceptional skills are immortalized through her artworks.
You can check her full bio and gallery of her work on her website www.mariampare.com. Also, you can support all the MFPA artists by purchasing their products. For more information visit their website www.mfpausa.com.
Their motto is: Self-help, not charity. Everyone should recognize them as an institution of professional artists with disability and not as an institution of the disabled. They work for a purpose. They need your support and not your pity.