This I Believe

Lauren - Boulder, Colorado
Entered on April 13, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: disability

Through out all of my years in school, I learned various things that helped to advance my education, and a few life lessons that I have stored away, deeming them unimportant for the time being. However, the one thing that I have learned that made a large impact on my life is that most of the human race judge a person’s cognitive abilities based on his or her physical appearance.

November 12 2000. That day was possibly the worst day in my life, or in reality the start of the worst month in my life. That day I spent nearly an hour in the guidance councilor’s office crying my ten-year-old eyes out. The pain of that day dulled slowly to a numbing ach by the time I could visit my closest friend in the hospital 32 days later. That pain has faded even more, but at times it yet again clenches its hands tightly around my heart.

Yet it was not until a summery day in my ninth-grade English class that I realized how powerful this loss had made me. It gave me a certain power, the power to change the world one person at a time.

I was sitting next to this very same friend, helping her with a class activity when I heard two voices whispering about her. Needless to say, this angered me to a point beyond my poor self control. I yelled quietly at those two girls. It was probably not my place, but I felt that they should know that even though my friend was in a wheelchair, unable to even feed herself, her mind was a better one than theirs. Just because she could not move, these two girls assumed that she could not hear their words, or that their words would not hurt her deeply.

Since that class, I have tried to keep students such as those two girls from treating the handicapped as though they are dumb. Yet refraining from acting on how someone looks is hard, several times I have caught myself slipping. Yet I am different from those who do not care, I catch myself and apologize for what I have done to the feelings of others.

Even if a person is in a wheelchair and unable to communicate, you cannot make a judgment about the power of their mind or the beauty of their soul. Yet this I believe, that unless we take a stand against this discrimination, there will always be those who judge based on looks without getting to know the person that they are judging first.