Rolling Without Limits

Your mobility may be limited. Your voice, boundless.

Visible Inspiration
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Visible Inspiration

I was happy when I got my wheelchair. After having been cooped up in my house for a year, unable to join my family in leisurely walks or trips to stores that didn’t provide their own wheelchairs, I was finally getting out again.

My mother wasn’t so happy. In my otherwise invisible illness, the wheelchair was something tangible she could see. The pain I had been experiencing was suddenly visible, and she didn’t like accepting that her daughter was sick.

I understood how she felt when I made my first outings. “What did you do to yourself?” People I sort-of knew, would approach me expecting some I-fell-off-a-roof type story.

“Well, uh,” I would stutter, “I have a rare condition...” I never knew how to explain my need for a wheelchair succinctly enough to be polite. And I always felt bad for them that they weren’t getting the blood-and-gore story they were hoping for, just a depressing story of a young-looking woman with a rare condition that no one really understood.

One day I was feeling particularly bothered, trying to sell books at a used book store with only my young daughter to help me out, when someone I didn’t recognize came up to me and practically shouted, “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” I said briskly, not even looking at her. I stewed as I handed the books over the counter. Why do people have to make a big scene? I wondered.

But she continued lingering nearby. “I’m sorry,” she said, as I turned my chair around to go look for some books. “I just started working at...” As she continued talking I realized with embarrassment that we had briefly worked together on the same campus. She had seen me around but hadn’t known anything about my illness or why I had suddenly disappeared from campus. She was truly concerned about me. Not just curious. Not just looking for a blood-and-gore story. She was concerned.

Since then, I’ve realized that what people want from someone in a wheelchair isn’t just blood and gore. What they really want is inspiration.

See, most everyone is struggling from some sort of invisible ailment. Whether it’s health issues, or relationship issues, problems at work, or problems with money, everybody has something they are trying to overcome--and they want to see others overcoming.

These days, when I’m out in my wheelchair, I try to make eye contact and smile with as many people as possible. It seems to make their day. Though it may seem like a small thing, I may be giving them the inspiration they need to smile and overcome their own ailments.

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  1. pftsusan
    Thank you for sharing. I think that people are starting to realize that the wheelchair is about independence and getting around for the user for you come first. I added you to my bloggers. Would love to read more of what you have to offer. I invite you to read my blogs. Voted.
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  2. sweedly
    Thanks for sharing. I have found that some wheelchair users are so used to the strange looks and rude comments that it is easy to think that anyone who asks if help is needed is hoping for a hard-luck story, but in truth many people are just trying to be helpful because they feel embarrassed not knowing how to approach someone. I have found that to be true in my case of just saying hello to someone in a wheelchair and instead of a friendly smile I get glared at. Then I am usually really unsure of what to say or do because that person seems to want me to just go away and I don't know what I did wrong. I enjoyed this very much. Voted!
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  3. Rolling STICKSandSTONES
    Everything you say is the truth, wonderful post, I really thought this was dear. I have a recent post that i'd like to share with you that I hope will make YOUR day
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  4. LTsinging
    I love the ending. People do need inspiration, and it's great that you're giving it to them. Voted.
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  5. Elizabeth
    Voted. I love that you're making people happy by smiling at them :)
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