The Sammy Shuffle: part 22

Sunday Morning: Holy Moly

I read my book. I shopped for groceries. I went to London Drugs for some almond milk and granola — there was a line up, doors open at 10 and the minute hand was a few short. I got bombarded. I suppose it’s partly my own fault, but why can’t people just talk about the weather??!!

A very elderly man exclaims that it is too hot to go skiing, and he’s looking right at me. “It is too warm for that,” I say, smiling, “These are crutches; they help me get around faster.” He looks at me blankly.

“Hello, hun,” A woman has come up and put her hand on my shoulder. After a brief greeting, “What happened to you? Did you have some kind of injury?” I explain briefly. “Oh…” she shakes her head sadly. There are now 3 curious onlookers all despairing over my condition.

“Can I pray for you, hun?”

I get so tired of this. Honestly, I educate people in brief. I don’t see the point in stating the obvious, that I have good days and bad days just like everyone else, that I don’t blame anyone for my life, I am pain free and don’t need your pity. I don’t want to be your inspiration. I’ve got a great life, family and friends. I can run faster than you can, play 3  instruments and have read more books than you can count. I’m not afraid to get dirty, I make my own food and have climbed mountains and slept in the snow. In other words, I’m pretty damn healthy and happy and would really appreciate it if people stopped seeing my life as constant and terrible struggle that’s all part of God’s plan or in need of a cure, that I just need to think more positively and eat my veggies.

Well, anyways, I said yes. It’s not hurting anyone, we all have our belief systems and need to look out for each other. The last time I got asked this, I said yes, and the lady simply closed her eyes and sent a silent few words up on my behalf. This was different. This was loud. And long.

“I ask for a miracle, oh God.” She lays her hands on me. “I know that you have not forgotten Sam and that you have a plan, and I ask you for a sign…” In front of an audience — at least we were at the front of the line so it was just a small group of maybe four people.

She kept going! It was the longest 2 minutes I have lived so far. And then another elderly fellow came up and started talking about the mafia and the end of the world and how prayer was BS and all I had to do was believe in my self, walk every day and eat lots of vegetables. And then, finally, the doors opened and was able to excuse myself and finish my shopping.

A friend of mine once said something to the effect that the able-bodied population needs to stop expecting or exploiting the disabled community’s ability to adapt to a world that is not built with accessibility in mind. And I agree. I think this can apply to many, many minority populations actually. The world was built to serve but a few, and it’s time for a shift in thinking, to allow everyone’s full participation. But for argument’s sake, I’ll stick with my own experiences as a disabled person.

I don’t want to constantly prove that my life is worth something to the casual passer-by.

I have the option that I can climb stairs, but the world could use more ramps and accessible seating. Design a transit system that doesn’t shut gates on people and expect them to have an attendant to enable them to tap in and out and travel the city. It’s not just an inconvenience when the elevators are all out of service, three stations in a row and all you can say is “Sorry,” and call me a cab that is not guaranteed to be accessible, either.

The deaf shouldn’t feel pressured to wear hearing aids or learn to lip read just to make your life easier. Finding a ramp or accessible restaurant or restroom shouldn’t be equivalent to finding the Holy Grail. Going to the toilet shouldn’t involve my having to cross my legs and ask a mom and her three kids to use the family room so that I can use the one designated accessible stall available, to do my business.

People living with mental illness, autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, diabetes, epilepsy, vision loss… Try offering us some genuine support, treating us as individuals and human beings. Not as something broken and in need of fixing or as heroic conquerers of barriers needing to be overcome. How about you try making our lives easier, without putting a prayerful, patronizing, pitying or inspirationally pornographic spin on it? Build more ramps, learn to sign, stop assuming that just because people might look or act differently, that they are somehow less –or deserving of a medal.

And, my crutches ARE NOT SKI POLES!!! 🙂

End rant.


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