Twenty years ago, if someone told me I would experience fabulous things due to my spinal cord injury, I would have punched them in the face. Actually, I would of hired someone to do it for me, as my newly paralyzed arm could not. But you get my meaning.
In all honesty, there were a few people in my very close circle who told me this (phrased a bit differently at the time… I don’t remember the word fabulous being used.) I didn’t possess any desire to punch them, as I knew what they said came from a loving place. It was just unfathomable to me at the time.
Plain and simple, they were right. More than right. I would accept a cure for SCI yesterday if it were available. But I would not trade the experiences I’ve had and the positive ripple effect that will grow with younger generations my injury has influenced the last twenty years for gold.
After the first most fabulous Item on my list, the rest are in no particular order. They are all equally fabulous, fantastic and simply special in my heart.
1. My kids. I won’t be a parent in this lifetime. I am lucky enough, however, to have seven nieces and nephews my family generously shares with me since each were born.
The two oldest are the only ones who experienced me both I’m injured and injured. I babysat them constantly for more than a decade before my injury. After my injury, they assured me they would now take care of me.
The other five range in age from four to nineteen. My disability is not an issue for them. They grew up with me needing help with certain things and that’s just the way it was.
From the moment they were born, I helped them understand we could play and do anything they wanted… we just may do it differently. They could care less. If only adults were that excepting.
I have an opportunity to instill in these precious human beings different is just different, and it’s nothing to be feared. They will become adults with this idea and be able to influence the world how our differences are to be accepted and embraced, not judged and ridiculed.
I’ve experienced plenty of fear-based ridicule and judgment due to my disability. I thank God every single day I have influenced these wonderful children, who will use their voices in their generation regarding the need for social acceptance.
2. People I meet. I have met some of the most incredible people that are true humanitarians. Surgeons with hearts of gold and hands of magic. Hospital staff from the best institutions in the world to clinics in third world countries, all taking care of you as if you were their own family.
True hands on healers, living in extremely modest surroundings, in countries whose languages I did not speak, who charged not a dime but only wanted to share their gift. Folks like me, traveling the world, seeking emotional healing more than physical. So many strangers who have done me a kindness throughout my life’s journey. Lifelong friendships made during my travels. The valuable lesson of people need people.
3. Paralyzed perks. Disabled parking rocks, especially in bad weather and when you are trying to get to a movie on time.
My niece and nephew went crazy at Disney World when they realized wheelchair folks go to the front of the line. And can go on rides multiple times, without having to get off. I must admit, the Disney World perks were a lot of fun for us adults, too.
Shoes. I am a shoe freak. I can’t walk, so even if I buy cheap shoes, they always look new. That doesn’t mean I don’t buy new shoes… it means I have a hundred pair. At least.
4. Being treated the same. I have a wonderful, supportive, unconditional loving family. They have big hearts and some of them have even bigger mouths. And they give me absolutely no special treatment due to my disability.
If I try to play the disabled card to manipulate one of them, it has absolutely zero effect. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
5. Opportunity for awareness. There is so much negative stereotyping regarding disabled individuals. People meet me and say how pretty I am. A spinal cord injury paralyzes you. It doesn’t smash you against the ugly tree.
Some folks talk really loud when they meet me. A spinal cord injury paralyzes you, it doesn’t make you deaf. Or mute. Or blind. Or stupid.
I realize people do not know what your issues are when you are disabled. Here is a revolutionary idea. I assume nothing. Actually take the time to observe and get to know the disabled individual for thirty seconds or so. You will quickly see how their disability affects them.
The fact I am in a position to draw awareness in ending stereotyping of our fellow humans and instead, getting to know their moral character is a gift from my injury. I pray with my whole heart I make an impact on this issue in my lifetime.
So there you have it. My top five most fabulous things about being injured. There are many, many more, but you would be reading forever.