Two Men Different Experiences.
I find it oddly amusing when people tell me their life stories and experiences on the onset of our meeting or after a day or two in my presence. I never fail to question what it is about me that inspires this in others because I’m neither open nor as forthcoming to strangers. Regardless of the whys, I am appreciative for it gives me an insight into their lives, personalities and how their experiences shape/shaped them.
My work put me in presence of two different men with disabilities and clearly different experiences. Henry is wheelchair bound while Julian is a leg amputee (which I never realised until he brought it to my attention). With them, I am more and more aware of how much society and the people we surround ourselves with play a huge role on the people we inadvertently become.
julian is quite confident with himself – something you tell through body language, the way he carries himself and speech while Henry is more timid with an inferiority complex which I believe is not fair to him because he has achieved so much and has more to be proud of. Being wheelchair bound shouldn’t be a reflection of who he is nor his personality.
During our talk; Julian let it be known that his daughter never wanted him to pick her up at school because students would laugh at his funny walk and in turn laugh at her. Knowing this hurt him but he made it his duty to change her perception and that of her friends who would visit her home to find him on crutches (he uses his artificial limb during the day). Now, she doesn’t care what her friends or everyone else thinks.
Talking with him made me reflect on my life, that of Henry’s and the general feel of the mood I’ve noticed at my work place. Most of the people I work with probably went through what Henry did for they speak in hushed tones, lack confidence in themselves yet they are well educated.
Henry once mentioned how different I was compared to the people he knows and has come into contact with. At this point; I guess it has to do with how I don’t fit the disabled person mold. Most of my friends call me loud, quite confident in myself with an arrogant streak to match not forgetting the I-Don’t-Care- attitude. Traits which people with disabilities don’t typically possess.
I have come across people who think I should be grateful for their friendship as well as boys for their attention to me as a girl because I am disabled. Sadly, my parents and family didn’t raise that kind of girl. I was never brought up to feel inferior to anyone because of my disability. When I meet people with such entrenched opinions and thoughts I feel sorry for them and their progeny because attitudes and thoughts are recurring themes in many generations.
Life is a learning experience. To-date; none of my friends has ever asked why I am three legged. Those who knew me from when it happened to the new ones, none because it doesn’t matter. The people who know me and my family commend them on a job well done in raising me flaws and all. At a certain point a lady stopped me just to tell me she prays her daughter turns out I like have. Which is quite the compliment.
Today’s world is all about awareness on diseases, sexual orientation and whatnot. Parents without children with disabilities should endeavour to teach their kids and educate them about disabilities and not just sexual orientation. They should be aware at a young age for them not to have a warped perceptions when they come in contact with a disabled person so that there is more Julians and less Henrys.
And those of children with disabilities should teach them confidence and pride. Pride in who they are and what they have achieved for themselves and done for society because they are equally as important.