In the video, “I am Tyler”, a video about a cerebral palsy young man, my first emotion was sympathy, which lasted less than ten seconds! If Tyler was sitting in front of me, I am positive he would loudly proclaim, “Do not pity me”. And I would not.
In high school, I had a friend, Gayle, who was in a wheel chair but not affected like Tyler. We did not attend junior high school together, and I am not aware of the difficulties she may have had prior to our meeting. She was a twin, and her twin was not affected. Is that the correct word, or should it be “afflicted”? She commanded interaction just by her personality, and she never lacked friends. She even attended the junior prom, along with her mother and her date! Gayle was something else, because she did not give up on life, nor did she feel she got the raw end of the deal. And we did treat her like one of us! Movies, the beach, the mall, and going out for pizza. The wheel chair made it difficult at times, but we managed. Either we did not think of her difficulties or we let her lead the way, and if she was feeling up to it, then we were good to go. Her parents encouraged her to do what she wanted, and we never did anything risky. I remember there was a roller coaster ride we wanted to go on, but since not everyone could ride, none of us rode to be fair to the rest of the group. By attending college and obtaining a degree, she was able to life the life she wanted, on her terms. It was rough, and while it may have taken her longer to graduate from college, she did graduate
My daughter, Shaynan, and I attended a wedding a couple of years ago, and there was a local couple with their daughter who was in a wheelchair and non-verbal. Her parents took her out on the dance floor every time the disc jockey played a dance with a peppy step, and spun her around and danced with her. She even had a place in line when the bride threw the bouquet! She did not catch it, but she did not leave empty handed, as my daughter gave her the bridesmaid flowers she herself had for the evening! A smile is worth a thousand words and she just beamed!
Do I treat people differently if they are different? No, my mother taught me that those who are different could be in your family, and you need to help others every chance you get. And I have a maternal cousin who is mentally challenged and a cousin who has a daughter that has a severe form of cerebral palsy and is non-verbal.
I do not treat people differently, but if they need help, I step up and help in any way I can. It pulls at my heartstrings because while I do not know personally what they are going through, I can imagine what they are experiencing, and may only be ten percent correct.