It is a beautiful day and the weather outside is perfect. You decide you will take a stroll to your local coffee shop to grab a cup of joe. You grab your wallet, phone and keys and head out the door. Perhaps you stop to chat with a few people along the way; life is great and you are feeling good. You continue on and are almost there when you see a person in a wheelchair approaching from the opposite direction. You don’t really think anything of it until the distance between you closes in and you realize you are both headed into the same coffee shop.
Now FREEZE and take inventory of your thoughts and feelings at the very instant you are within five feet from one another with the both of you reaching the entrance of the coffee shop at the same time. Okay now, ACTION.
Did you make eye contact? If so, did it make you uncomfortable? Did you speak or were you uncomfortable with the thought of striking up a conversation? Was your first emotion sympathy or empathy? Did you see the person or were your senses overwhelmed with the condition that the person was in?
Seeing the person and not the condition is “not” always easy and there are so many factors than can and will determine how one will navigate through a real encounter with a person in a wheelchair. If you have never been exposed to someone who depends on a wheelchair for mobility, it is natural to not know what to expect, think or feel.
Most of us will experience feelings of pity. Some will feel anxiety coupled with fear and there are some who feel nothing at all. Each scenario is a “wheel opportunity” for a learning experience if you are open to it.
One can learn the true meaning of the phrase “I AM NOT MY CHAIR.” The wheelchair does not affect the intelligence quotient. (If I was a dumb ass before the injury, chances are that I am still a dumb ass!). Yes, the chair can create real world limitations such as the inability to get to the third floor without an elevator when the stairwell is narrower than the chair but the wheelchair does not set limitations relative to one’s potential for achievement. See the person, not the chair. They are executives, scientists, inventors, doctors, lawyers, athletes, teachers, mothers and fathers raising children, authors and any other conceivable profession you can think of….. and they are fueled by the “wheel” power of the human spirit!
What are your thoughts on this article?
Please feel free to share your comments below.