A Bigger Picture (on being Disabled)

Ever forget you’re not the center of the universe?

My discussion with a spinal injury support group left me pondering the whole notion of An Able-Bodied World.

The audience was folks who are relatively new at figuring out how to navigate life with some level of paralysis—and their spouses.

Becky pointed out afterward that the people in wheelchairs aren’t the only ones caught between a culture created for a narrow range of abilities and the reality of life outside that range. Spouses, family, and friends also struggle with trying to know how to adapt. They weren’t physically injured, but their lives are profoundly altered.

I know that, of course, but I’ll admit that I usually think of my injury in terms of myself and the adjustments I have to make. I’m “the little blue guy” on the handicapped signs, the one who needs the special parking spaces.

I tend not to think as often of how those around me live an altered life as well.

Becky needs those parking spots as well, when she’s with me. She has to look for ramps and accessible entries, avoid buildings with steps, skip certain events. To some degree, she has to traverse a landscape that mostly wasn’t designed for us.

I obviously struggle at times to make my way in what’s often a world that caters to able-bodied people. I forget that Becky lives in a world that caters to people with able-bodied spouses. I fear I’m too often oblivious to the reality that everyone who cares about me is caught to some degree between the able-bodied world and the reality of relating to one who doesn’t quite fit.

I’ll put that down under the heading of myopic and self-centered. No matter how often I remind myself, I can’t seem to internalize the truth that IT’S NOT ABOUT ME!

But perhaps there’s a larger lesson beyond my personal tunnel vision. Maybe we can learn to see a bigger picture of adversity.

When someone encounters significant adversity, life changes. Like it or not, that person is caught between the life they knew and the life they must come to know.

And so are those who care about that person. Things have changed, adjustments must be made. I wonder how often we minimize those challenges.

I wonder:

  • Do I really listen, or simply assume I understand?
  • Do I marginalize or minimize their circumstances?
  • Do I work as hard to include those in the support system as I do the obvious “victim”?

Your thoughts?

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Copyright 2008-2012 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

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