A group of us had just finished an excellent dinner and were now deciding what dessert to eat. Everyone was laughing and talking at once. Except for one person. One person who had, moments before, been joking loudly, fell silent. She sat very still.
Her husband noticed and turned serious. “We need to leave now“, he said, and they left. The rest of us paid for our meal and moved to the exit on foot and on wheels. The silent woman and her husband were already farther down the sidewalk heading back to their hotel.
I was shocked at what I saw. To me, it looked like the man was walking beside a stiff, wooden figure. The figure was not the sporty, active person I had met a few days previously. This was a person possessed. She was possessed by the pain of fibromyalgia right in the middle of having fun with friends. Her husband got her back to the hotel as quickly as they could walk. He gave her the medication she needed, put her to bed, and drew the curtains so the room was completely dark. He then joined us in a café next to the hotel where we had our dessert and coffee.
That was the day that I saw the face of real pain. I couldn’t pretend to understand it fully. I realized that I could never say “I understand what you are going through.” That would be a lie. There was no need for pity, either. All I could do was show respect and tolerance – the kind of respect and tolerance that we owe all human beings.
This particular incident comes to mind when I hear anyone express the thought that some people fake their illness or that they just want to collect benefits. How can we be so suspicious of others that we immediately assume they are lying or taking money from others? That is a shocking and terrible attitude for people to have.
When I read the blog posts submitted for Blogging Against Disablism Day (BADD) each year, I am struck by one theme – a lack of respect we human beings can have for other human beings. Could it be that many of those posts would not have been written if some respect and tolerance had been shown? There could have been collaboration instead of conflict.
I think projects like BADD are good as an outlet for the voices of people with disabilities. I believe those voices are the key to developing more respect for each other. I almost feel like I shouldn’t be taking any of the spotlight on BADD. Then I remembered what I learned from watching my friend’s transformation under pain and thought of sharing my own path to better awareness about disability. We need to rid ourselves of any negative attitudes – especially in our governments where it is often amplified.
My humble plea is that we all examine our attitudes and start showing more respect today. Respect is not a cliché. It is the first step toward awareness and inclusion. We owe that to each other.
Now, go and read all the posts on the BADD 2012 web page. I hope they blow your mind.