A Heartfelt Story and Plea, from those whose disabilities aren’t easily visible.
A good friend wrote this, but she wrote it so well she is speaking for me and my son, and others with genetic disorders, diseases, even things like Aspergers and other things that make life different and challenging. It is not my usual blog, but it is something we all need to understand! Please read and consider what Sharon and I and many others go through… and how you can either be a friend, or drag us down…how you can love them, rather than igoring or mocking them.
I want to share something very important to me. It all starts with a story.
On the side of the road, leaning against a building nearby the sidewalk, sits a young woman. She seems to ignore the tripping hazard caused by her outstretched legs. A cardboard sign is propped up nearby with the typical sob story followed by a request for donations. Also at her side is a small grocery cart containing a few essentials. It goes everywhere with her. She rarely moves from her spot during the day, but when she does it’s with an annoyingly slow plod. In general however, she sits. Always in the same place, often barely moving for hours on end. In appearance she looks healthy enough, but it’s hard to miss her slowness in responding, her glazed eyes, her excessively flushed cheeks. Occasionally someone will offer her a job, and she always politely declines. Most passersby assume that she is a lazy alcoholic who deserves little attention.
What people don’t know is the physical pain she endures every single hour. That her legs are kept outstretched because that’s the least painful sitting position she can manage. How even holding the sign for an hour would cause her arms to scream in agony, so she keeps it to the side instead. That she walks slowly and leans heavily on the cart to minimize the stabbing sensation of every step. How she wishes that she could accept offers of work, but knows that even an hour’s work will cause too much pain for her to continue. Even her begging location was chosen for its close proximity to where she could sleep, rather than for its traffic and success in income. That she tends not to move a muscle out of necessity rather than desire. People don’t realize that her flushed face, glazed eyes, and slow responses are also her own body’s making. Not alcohol or drugs. How pain combined with flu-like fatigue and lightheadedness causes her to struggle at maintaining any level of concentration.
This young woman could be me.
I am disabled. I’m also physically unable to work. Yet at the same time, I look perfectly “normal” and “healthy” to any observer. All of the symptoms described for the young woman are a simplified version of my personal experience. If I did not have my incredibly supportive family and friends, I would very easily end up on the streets.
When you talk about healthcare, welfare, and the disabled as if they’re all faking or lazy, you communicate that people like me are worth less than you. You communicate that you would rather prevent a single “lazy” person from receiving free stuff than provide assistance to 99 individuals in need. You assume that people like me, who are legitimately disabled yet look “healthy” on the outside, are lazy and lying. You communicate that you would rather assume I am lying about my condition than provide help.
When your first response to the possibility of people dying by losing healthcare is that the sick are probably going to die anyway, then you communicate to me that it would be fine if I died due to lack of assistance. You ignore the fact that people with non-life-threatening conditions can die due to those conditions, simply through inadequate support.
If your reaction to disabled people dying due to lack of medical access is that now they’re out of their misery, and oh yay their family is free to have a life again, then you communicate that I am better off dead. That I am such a burden to my loved ones that it would benefit everyone if I simply committed suicide. You communicate to me that my life isn’t worth as much as yours, because I am unable to hold a traditional job. That my reliance on others to live takes away my worth as a human.
When you call yourself a Christian and say these things, you communicate that you agree with the priest from Luke 10:31.
Whenever you talk about welfare, healthcare, or disabled people, please think of people like me. Don’t dehumanize the conversation. You are talking about the lives of human beings. Please remember that.