This I Believe

Shelby - Schertz, Texas
Entered on February 5, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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Don’t Judge a Woman by Her Walker

In the mirror, she saw only a wizened, wrinkly woman with a catheter. Always having the feeling of being incapable because of the incurable multiple sclerosis that has paralyzed three of her limbs. Just by looking at her, society has placed their blind spots over her heart, over her mind, over her soul. The natural gray highlights streak her formerly blonde hair and the cold, metal chair that carts her around is all they see.

My aunt was the most carefree, light-hearted woman that I have ever met. She lived life to the fullest extent and to that extent her life was full. We would gossip on the phone about boys and about boys and more about boys and of course my deepest concern for my education when my parents happened to be walking by. My family and I made it our duty to stop by at least every summer to see her, but as we got older, the empty space on our calendar started to fill up. Summers went by, seasons passed, hair colors changed, I matured from selling cookies to wearing make-up, yet we still did not put forth enough effort to clear a little room in our schedules for her. Eventually, she was diagnosed with a disorder called multiple sclerosis, the nerve endings not being able to commute back to the brain. This made the use of her feet an impossible feat; her next investment brought with it the beeps of a wheelchair. Before, the thoughts of others did not waiver her stand; now her stand began to waver. It seemed everywhere she went, she looked into the crude faces of the owners who possessed those judgmental stares that pressed down on her. She then realized her life would never have the normalcy she once had.

Now that we can commit a small amount of our time to see her, she does not want us to visit her; she wants us to remember her in her younger years, before the aging and the stereotypes; she worries that we will judge her like the rest of the world. However, when I look at her I still see all her attributes she has given to my family and all others in need. She had a sense of humor that could make a frown droop down your face and prevailing would be a smile.

We ask ourselves, “How can people do that to her?” We all do it, that is part of our human nature, but when it distorts the way we look at people, those biased thoughts hurt. Not giving people a chance to show who they really are but letting their shortfalls overshadow everything is not how we should base our thoughts and opinions. If you do that, you lose the real substance of a person. We are not superman with his X-ray vision, we cannot see if the person’s heart is made up of gold or sulfur. We have to take the time to know the victims of physical or mental disabilities, let their hearts speak the truth of who they are and not criticize their outward appearance.

I believe we can live in a world without prejudice, where people can see people for “the content of their character” not the imperfections that confine them. If we only look at the mask which encages them, we can never see what is beneath the surface.