Last Monday, I had foot surgery. Nothing major in my book. Simply a bone fusion to relieve the bone on bone situation I’d been living with for the past 12 years. With doctor’s orders to rest for a week, this avid walker was getting a bit of cabin fever. To make matters worse, I look out from my home to one of Seattle’s most walkable city trails complete with Puget Sound views. Needless to say, the fever rose to a, well fever pitch, as I watched people strolling, walking dogs, and otherwise enjoying a sunny Spring week. Thankfully, a friend was able to borrow a wheelchair and took me for a stroll….roll?
Ah…..the joy of fresh salt air and life on the trail! I was in heaven. This particular area of Seattle is like a small town. People are friendly, say hello, let you pet their dogs, and Elliott the cat. It’s nice. But yesterday, as I rolled along, people were even nicer. Everyone would stop to let me pet their dogs. In one case, I was given a biscuit to feed a lovely lab. My friend and I were struck by how much friendlier people were to someone in a wheelchair. They had no way to know it wasn’t necessary or permanent. I almost felt like I was cheating them.
It took me back to my youth, when I’d worn a back brace for a year. I was very self conscious, heck I was only 15. People stared, kids backed away, and people didn’t befriend me. This was somewhat the opposite experience. People stared a bit, but in a friendly way. Kids didn’t back away, but they did stare. I began to think of it as a social experience. Were people being extra kind to the “girl in the wheelchair” and taking pity on me? I’d never had so many people stop and engage, and certainly never had been given a biscuit before! I’m eager to try it again today.
I spent six years working for Goodwill, an organization committed to helping those with barriers to work find gainful employment. We served people with barriers to work, whether in a wheelchair, blind, unable to speak English, you name it. It was interesting to be viewed as one of my former clients. I still don’t know exactly what to make of it. Mostly, I’m touched by how kind people were. It will take some time to sort out the experience, but it was interesting and a very positive one for the most part.