Wheelchair Respect! -- Diversity Lesson #2


Most frequently, we draw firm conclusions about people based solely on what our experience has taught us. While that is normal and often reasonable, what we see is not always what we get.

Before I went to college, I had the privilege of attending church with a wheelchair-bound Vietnam Veteran. Cool dude! His upper body was fit! His grip was crushing. He popped wheelies in his chair. I had no fear of or undue pity for the wheelchair-bound.

Paraplegics were different. The only paraplegics I ever saw were incapable of self-care. They couldn’t communicate with me. They made me uncomfortable.

In college, I worked at a state government agency in the payroll department. There was an accountant, a military veteran – Army – who sat next to me. He was paraplegic.

He remains the most charming person I ever met. I enjoyed his sense of humor, sense of family, stability, and mentorship! He was smart, insightful and industrious. He drove himself to work every day – never late, never missing a day - in a customized van his church family bought for him. He happened to be paraplegic.

Upon first glance, he reminded me of people I had seen back home in D.C. who were incapable of self-care. As it turns out, he was not only capable of self-care; he cared for us as well. He made us laugh. He had all the right answers. He was the department’s best employee. You often forgot that he was paraplegic.

Sometimes we look at each other and we see what we are used to seeing instead of what could be. Allow yourself to see more than what your mind has been limited to. No one is only what you think of them. Everyone is much more than you know.




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