During a recent evening out, I found myself seated beside an interesting older gentleman. Lively banter and laughter flowed easily.
During the course of the evening, he turned the conversation to his extreme discomfort and impatience when he finds himself among people crowding the way with wheelchairs, walkers and canes.
He seemed like a very nice man and I'm certain that he meant no harm. I made a quick joke of the fact that perhaps he hadn't noticed my cane when I took my place, and I held it up for all to see. There was a round of giggles and that was the end of the conversation on disability.
Later, I found myself thinking about his words. Should I have said more? We were at a casual social function and it didn't seem like the time or place to get serious. Still, I wondered if I had let my peers down by not addressing the issue.
Truth be told, I think that his discomfort was largely due to the fact that, at 69 years old, he did not want to face the possibility that he may one day join the ranks of the disabled.
So I turned my attention to the people he had spoken about. I thought about the elderly and the disabled. I thought about myself and my relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis. I alternate between the fast-moving able-bodied world, and the world of wheelchairs, walkers and canes, so I clearly understand both realities.
I came to realize that the people he referred to are, in reality, my role models. They have disabilities which necessitate mobility aids, yet they choose not to remain hidden in the sanctuary of their own homes. They do what they have to do in order to participate in life! As difficult as it may be, they grab their wheelchairs, walkers, and canes and get moving. They run errands, they shop, and they socialize in public.
How easy it would be to give in, to give up. They are fully aware that people will look. Some will stare. Some will pass judgement. Some will be aggravated that they are in the way. Some will wonder why they bother at all.
They bother because they are alive! They do it because they can! More than any celebrity spokesperson, these people deserve our respect and thanks for bringing the issue out in the open. Every time I see someone out in public, rising to the challenge, I know that I can do it, too!
During Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, let's take a moment to thank the every day role models who pave the way for us.
Published On: March 05, 2008