Some days, all I want to do is scream out for the whole world to hear, “I’m not broken and I don’t need you to fix me!” I’ve looked my wheelchair over from top to bottom and I’ve checked myself from head to toe for signs indicating or requesting that every person who sees me out of my house stop me and act like it’s their personal mission to heal me. Before I go on, I would like to say, I don’t have a problem with prayer. I’m a Christian and I believe in the power of prayer. However I’m sick of people preying on the disabled.
I was at Kroger the other day, minding my own business, trying to quickly pick up some low-fat, low-fiber, protein packed food. The foods I rely on for protein are not available for purchase anywhere in my small town. I have to travel at least 45 minutes to the nearest Kroger or Wal-Mart, just to buy tofu. I asked about tofu one day at a local grocery store and had to explain what it as because the store employees didn’t even know what it was.
So, I was at Kroger. I’d just passed through the fresh produce section and entered the area where the soy products, such as tofu, were located. An older looking gentleman stopped me and asked a simple question, “What are you doing in that?” He was referring to my wheelchair. I wanted to scream, but I was taught as a child to respect my elders and to be kind to everyone. I thought to myself, “Isn’t is obvious?” Given he was a complete stranger, he received the short sweet version…I have complex regional pain syndrome and it causes pain and weakness in my leg. The man went on to tell me he had a back surgery and it had saved his life. Then he went on to tell me everything I needed to do to get better. The only part of his plan that stuck with me was “massage.” Just the thought of someone touching my leg makes me hurt. I thanked him for his advice, although I don’t really think I was thankful, and went on shopping, thinking I’d probably never see this man again. I was wrong. During that very same shopping trip, every time he passed the aisle I was shopping in he stopped to talk. Although I know it’s a rude behavior, I’ve become pretty good at ignoring people like that. When I pretended to be so interested in rice noodles that I didn’t hear him, he started talking to my mom. He asked her if she was with me. At one point, he passed the end of the aisle I was shopping also in and commented, “She’s not been healed yet.” I suppose he was expecting a Kroger miracle.
On the way home, mom and I discussed what had happened to us at Kroger. I kept asking, why do people ask “What a person is doing in a wheelchair?” To me, it’s obvious that the person has mobility issues and is using the wheelchair to get from point A to point B. For some reason, although wheelchairs, walkers, and canes come in all different sizes, people think they are daily living aids for old people, not the young. I jokingly told mom that I should have told that man I was just sitting in that wheelchair because I thought wheelchairs were sexy and I wanted to see how many creepy old men I could attract. Of course I’ll probably never really say that in public, because I would be too embarrassed, but come on, what did he think I was using a wheelchair for. They aren’t cheap and you don’t just choose to use one because it’s the latest fashion statement. Maybe I was using that wheelchair to try to get a suntan inside the Kroger store or to walk my invisible dog or to imagine I was deep in the ocean in a submarine. I’ve always heard there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but sometimes I feel like giving sarcastically stupid answers.
Like I said, I am a Christian. I do believe God has healing powers, but I don’t believe in picking out only the obviously disabled to pray for or prey on. If you see me in the store and want to pray for me, go for it. No one is going to stop you. You don’t have to know my name or what’s wrong with me in order to pray. When you pray for that girl in the wheelchair, God is all-knowing and He is going to know who you are praying for. God wants us to pray for the sick and injured, but He also wants us to pray for the healthy. If your going to pray for me, I ask that you also pray for yourself and every other shopper in the store. Everyone needs prayer.
I haven’t yelled at any one yet, but I can’t make any promises not to yell in the future. When you see someone in a wheelchair, please accept that we are just like you. We have feelings just like you. We came to the store to shop, just like you. Just because we are rolling around on wheels instead of walking on two legs doesn’t really make us any different. Many of us have been in a wheelchair for years and we are tired of the million and one people who are always offering advice on what we should be doing different. I realize you may think you are helping by offering the solution that worked for your dear aunt’s coworker’s bother’s friend or by praying for healing, but drawing attention to every disabled person you meet in life is just that, drawing attention to our differences. Our bodies may work or look a little different from the majority of the population, but deep inside we are just the same as everyone else. We are trying to live our lives to the fullest. Our physical appearance and abilities may be different, but we wish to be treated with dignity and respect the same as anyone else. If you aren’t going to stop everyone that looks healthy and able-bodied, why stop me?