On a regular basis, I run into total strangers that want to talk to me about my disability. Last night was no different. Emily and I went to the local Barnes and Noble looking for Mastering the Art of French Cooking, since we both love to cook and Emily loves the movie Julie and Julia.
I was about to go up the escalator when a young man in his late 20s asked me “Where was the elevator”? The man was in a wheelchair and seemed to be in a flustered state of mind. I politely pointed in the direction of the elevator and we went separate ways only to reacquaint on the second floor. There he was with his father, a large out of shape man who seemed lost in his shuffling though the cook books. After they see me they converged on me like young children often do.
The question came one after another. “Do you have a wheelchair?” “Do you drive?” “Do you get out of bed alone.” “Does somebody bath you?” “Do you have children?” “Do you work out?” And after about 5 minutes of answering most questions with, “Yes, I do everything myself”, I moved on to look at some more books.
I was happy this young man and his father were curious and that I was able to answer some of their questions. I just hoped I was able to show them the other side of what a disability can be.
This guy had some back issues and some surgery five years ago and from what I can tell he basically gave up on his whole life. Every positive statement I made about my life was countered with a sad story about himself followed by more questions. I couldn’t believe that a person would just let their life slip so far away from them. He mentioned he doesn’t exercise or really do anything because he didn’t see the point as if being in a wheelchair was some kind of a death sentence. His father didn’t seem all that encouraging as he mostly put down his son in comparison with me. I heard several, “See, he can do it himself, why can’t you?”
It was so sad it was difficult for me to feel like anything I said was getting through to them.
Just because you are faced with a crippling disability doesn’t mean you have to give in to it. I was born without legs and I didn’t just give up. I didn’t think that my life was over, I found a way to do things and I made the most of my life. I don’t expect myself to run a marathon or climb a mountain, those aren’t goals I have set for myself but there is no chance I would just sit on my butt and waste my life away feeling sorry for myself.
I wish the best for this guy and his father and hope that maybe they will see that he is on a journey to another life, maybe it is a little different but it can be just as fulfilling.