I entered the waiting room. I was already nervous as they were trying to figure out what was happening inside my body. This particular visit was to an MS specialist. I looked around the room and I was surrounded by canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. The people who were connected to those aides didn’t look any happier to be there than I was. Immediately a wave rushed over me and I felt like I was going to throw up. If I could have ran out of there, I would have. I didn’t belong here. This was a group of people that I had no business being around. They were not my kind. They had my sympathy, but I wanted no part of their lives.
I found that in the early days after I became paralyzed, I felt awkward around those just like me! It was almost as if I knew I had become disabled….you know, one of them….but it felt like I was just an outside visitor to their world. When I saw others like me, instead of being drawn towards them (like I would be now), I was turned off. I was afraid to identify too closely for fear that I may become one of them.
One day it hit me. I realized that for some unknown reason, I had a lesser viewpoint of those with disabilities. Oh, I admired inspirational people and what they had accomplished through their struggles. I had great sympathy and kindness for those with lesser abilities. I would have been the first to line up to help anyone like this! But when the reality of being one of them was at my door, I wanted nothing to do with it. I would painfully look at them and think, “Am I looking at myself?” The answer in my soul to that question made me realize what a low view I had of them.
In this day and age, there is much inclusion for those with disabilities. But I would say the majority of us, while thankful for the times in which we live, have all felt the brand of “lesser breed” by others around us. I don’t get angry because I dealt with feeling that way about myself!
Now bear with me as I am about to get excited! As I read the Gospels and the stories of Jesus, they are packed and loaded with Him tripping over people with disabilities about every 50 feet! Well, not exactly, but pretty close! Jesus did not look at anyone as a “lesser” person. He put His hands on the lepers, the blind, the deaf, the mute, the deformed and the paralyzed. He went out of His way to find them. Some were thankful for His touch in their lives, and some were not. Some said thank you and some did not. Some shared their story with others and some did not. Whatever their reaction, they each knew this. Jesus did not look down on them. He reached out to them.
Actually, Jesus said that when you do something for “the least of these”, you have done it unto Him. By many people’s standard, we are some of the least. Not only did Jesus becoming one of us bring us salvation, it brought us an example of how to treat other people. Oh how my heart desires to follow His example!
I am one of the disabled and I am not ashamed of it. This change came about because I met more and more of them, I spent time with them, and I realized how ridiculous I had been with my preconceived ideas. My fear to be one of them was stunting some beautiful relationships. Something had to give. I am glad I let my pride go ( in this particular area – I still have a ways to go in many other areas) and embraced what could not be changed in my life. I have reaped some amazing friendships because of that. I learned that there was great strength in our ranks and I was crazy for even hesitating to tap into that. Maybe if more people changed their actions from looking down to reaching out, this world could be a much more compassionate place.
I am reminded of another passage of Scripture: Matthew 13:31-32 – “Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds:but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”
I entered the room. It was full of wheelchairs. The chairs were filled with laughing and smiling faces. It was our wheelchair support group meeting day. I looked around. I smiled. I belonged. This room was not full of a lesser breed. It was full of a strong, independent and amazing group of people. I didn’t see seeds. I saw trees.