Most people have the best intentions when they tell you stories of their lives or make gestures in an attempt to relate to your situation. But sometimes it comes off a little different. I’m very comfortable sharing the basics of my injury to strangers and helping someone understand a little better about my situation if they ask.
—An older woman had approached me while in line at a shopping center and she was very kind. She introduced herself and asked me why I was in a wheelchair. I briefly shared the cause and condition of my spinal injury with as much emphasis on the positive things that have happened. She seemed perplexed and replied, “Honey, I know just how you feel.” She continued, “I wasn’t so lucky. I had my Gall Bladder removed and I had to be in one of those things until I got out of the hospital.” She just shook her head and made a face as if she just bit into a lemon.
—While eating lunch with a friend at a local restaurant, I noticed someone staring from across the room. She stood up and began walking my way. As she approached me, she stopped just short and placed her hands flat on her thighs, then on the table. I sensed that she was really nervous. She simply said, “I’m so sorry.” I knew what she was getting at but I couldn’t help but to ask why she was sorry. Hey, she could have had the same meatloaf and knew something I didn’t! She reached for my hand and just continued by saying that she was so very sorry. Her emotion and openness were very touching, at first. I thanked her for her sincerity and after 10 more minutes of, “I’m so sorry.” She decided to move on. If she had a foreign accent, I would have guessed that these were the only American words she knew and what she really needed were directions to the bathroom.
—I was at a conference in Vancouver, BC with a coworker and his wife. One evening, we were meeting for dinner outside the hotel. I made it to the curb before they did so I leaned back against the marquee and enjoyed the beautiful view of the bay. I was lost somewhere in the moment and the events of the day when someone walked by me and put a dollar on my leg and began walking away. It startled me. I quickly said to the person, “I’m not what you think (trying to hold back a laugh). Please take your money.” Talk about a blow to the self-esteem. I thought I was worth twice that!