Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Coming to Terms with Disability (A Summer Blog Hop Post)
"More alike than different."
I own no less than three tote bags with this slogan. And certainly, I agree with the sentiment. We're all alike on the inside, and all of that. But lately, making my peace with disability has been more about twisting it around. Because why do we have to be the same to all be valuable?
"More different than alike."
Today at the grocery store I chatted with the deli worker for five minutes about her grandson. He has autism, he's starting Early Intervention. She was proud of her grandson, and seemed happy to talk about him with someone who didn't need to have these things explained, with someone who wasn't trying to fit him into a typical mold. I griped to her about my morning's three-store-excursion to find shoes big enough to fit over orthotic braces. She responded with pity for the ordeal of shopping with small children, not pity that my boy's ankles need extra support. I took my broccoli slaw and went on my way.
That conversation wouldn't have happened if Max's disability wasn't evident in his face. Sticking next to Max opens all sorts of windows into the differences that are a part of so many lives.
Speaking of the orthotics, they're new this week, and Toby is fascinated. He came along to Max's fitting, and when he saw an empty brace he bounced out of his chair. "I know those!" he exclaimed. "My friend has those! He let me touch them!" Turns out, there's a kid in his class with orthotics, and from the repeated assertion that "he let me" I'm pretty sure Toby has been reprimanded by their teacher for fiddling with them. Another little difference, exciting enough that Toby wanted to be a part of it--even if for a 5-year-old that means putting his hands into someone else's space.
It's a small thing, but learning our way through supporting Max opens our eyes to so many little differences around us. I'm reminded, when I meet someone new, not to assume similarity. Listening for their differences -- in ability, in background, in perspective -- make my experience of them richer, and my relationship with them more honest. Coming to terms with disability means celebrating that we are all more different than we are alike. My world is getting bigger for noticing the differences.