Throughout my youth I was surrounded by people who were different. In elementary school we had a janitor who had a mental “disability.” He was the nicest guy I know. He enjoyed cleaning the school and being around the students and his difference did not keep him from doing it. He sluured his speech when he talked and was hard to understand at first but he was a friend to all the children in the school. There was also a girl who was a few years younger than me who was born without all of her fingers. You would not be able to tell by looking at her from behind that she had a difference. She still dose the same things all the other kids do, such as playing at recess or writing, just a little different.
I never understood what it was like to be different until September 6, 2006. On that day I was in a 4-wheeler wreak and broke my back. I was told I would never walk again. I am not completely healed and still have some differences. I have to wear braces on my legs and walk with a crutch. I have discovered that I can do all of the things I did before. I just have to do some of them a little different. I have also come to notice that when you are different you notice things differently, things that you have always taken for granted. Things like how liberating it is to be abel to drive and how much other people can help you.
During my recovery I have gone to therapy and met many different people. They do not let their differences slow them down. We have all learned to adapt. This world depends on people who are different. Their different perspective allows them to discover things that have never been noticed before. These people still have a lot to give. For example the leaps and bounds made in the technology used in prosthetic devices were not pioneered by able bodied people, but people who were different. The same thing applies in the medical field. Differences have brought us to where we are today. There is no such thing as a disabled person, just someone who is different. I hope that we as a people are able to embrace people’s differences and not single them out because of them. People who are different just want to be treated like everybody else. The next time you see someone who is different do not feel sorry for them, do not treat them differently, just say hello and treat them the way you would treat anyone else, just keep in mind that they may do some things differently than you.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.