It’s not always easy sharing details regarding your disability. It can, at times, leave you vulnerable to scrutiny, criticism and the worst, pity. Sharing is one thing, but I have yet to meet a disabled individual who wishes to be a poster child.
Why do it then? By telling the intimate physical, emotional, mental and social inner workings of my disability, the attention draws awareness to the extreme challenges going along with it. The more attention a disability or disease gets, the more people will see the need for its cure.
Sharing can also be a catalyst for prevention. Much of what I share includes my personal care. The way our body works is an individual’s own private information. If, however, my sharing prevents a single person from one of the plethera of life-threatening, post-injury complications, it is well, well, worth it.
I do my best to communicate in a way that helps folks become aware whether it be physical, mental or developmental, a person’s disability should not be what they are defined by. Disabled or not, we should be defined by the content of our moral character.
I have a small forum to speak from. I’ve done inspirational speaking to groups only as large as a few hundred people, and I have my writing. You may be surprised, however, how many insulting and sarcastic comments and questions (in person and virtual) I have had thrown at me. I’ve even been heckled.
People act this way when they are afraid of something different they don’t understand. The only way you have a chance of reaching them and getting their attention is through grace.
Grace is the act of love, kindness, mercy, favor. In other words, keep your cool and stick to the facts. Albeit, hard to do at times, but it’s our only chance with ignorance on the receiving end. If you can get an individual’s attention, you have an opportunity they will possibly hear what you are saying. That’s the way you can make a difference.
Michael J. Fox has been a champion for more than twenty years in finding better treatment and a cure for Parkinson’s disease. He was diagnosed with the disease in 1991 at the age of twenty-nine.
At one point in his journey with Parkinson’s, he was featured on Larry King Live. He talked about his disease and promoted his latest book, “The Adventures Of An Incurable Optimist.” It’s an excellent read.
I found everything Michael said to be a combination of intelligent and poignant. But it was when Larry asked Michael about Rush Limbaugh’s personal attack on him that my jaw dropped to the floor.
It was Michael J. Fox’s response…the way he responded. With grace, with inspiration, with a smile. Not knowing the details about the attack, I jumped onto the internet to find out more. Even now, I can’t believe what I saw.
Michael J. Fox had done a televised PSA for a Democratic politician in the Midwest prior to the 2008 Presidential Election. Michael’s symptoms of his disease were obvious in the PSA, as they have been many times since his diagnosis.
It is reasonable to expect someone to show the symptoms of the disease or disability they have. My wheelchair isn’t an accessory. Rush Limbaugh’s response to the PSA was absolutely horrific.
He actually mimicked Michael’s symptoms. Limbaugh said Michael was exaggerating them for the benefit of the camera and you had never seen Michael’s symptoms on television before.
Michael answered this attack by saying he understands the response because many people do not know how the symptoms and medications of Parkinson’s disease work, things may look unnatural to them.
With a small but distinct window of opportunity to make a graceful exit, Rush Limbaugh instead goes in the direction of a bullish bore. He has the gall to say Michael skipped taking his medication prior to filming the PSA
Oh, the things I would like to say to Limbaugh. But I won’t, because it will only satisfy my need of instant gratification to tell a narrow minded, ignorant conservative what I really think of him. I’d rather be graceful.
Okay, so I’m a work in progress.