What is it about the wheelchair that attracts people? Some times it’s the looks but other times there are full blown conversations with people the randomly say things (not all bad!)
My first outing with my son and his wheelchair was to a restuarant. I was meeting a friend for breakfast. We were eating and talking. My son is quite well behaved if there’s not too many people too many noises he has to try and figure out. but as we were sitting there….an elderly gentleman was seated near us. he was more interested in his newspaper than looking at where he was being seated. Then he SAW us. He didn’t have to say anything, you could read it in his face. I just smiled. what else can you do. So he sat down and did his thing breakfast & newspaper. When we left, we had to stop by his table cause the diaper bag was rubbing. I adjusted and proceeded out. We stood in the parking lot and talk for a bit. The gentleman came out…waiving his newspaper at me…”hey, what’s wrong with your boy”. I said “nothing”. “Why is he in that chair” (hehehe) “Because he has Cerebral Palsy” his reply “so he can’t do anything? he won’t be able to wash your car?” I said “when he’s older, and if he wants to wash my car I will give him a sponge & a bucket and he can have at it” He wanted to know more…really?? I was amazed, I thought he’d be gone at this point. He asked a few more questions then left. I had to laugh. For someone who really wasn’t initially interested in being around my son, I think we won him over 🙂
Another time, I was taking my son for a follow up to the ENT and I had just signed him in and sat down in the waiting room. There’s a couple other people & a few kids wondering around. It’s a small room maybe 12×16 feet and about 20 chairs around (so really not much room to get a wheelchair through). We were sitting there & a little boy says to me (very very loudly)…”WHY IS HE IN A WHEELCHAIR?” clearly his mom was embarassed and started to appologize. I said “it’s ok” to her and to him I said “because he can’t walk like you and I” he stood there for a minute thinking it through and looking at the mechanics of the chair then said “OH” and that was it. Mom said again “I’m so sorry!” I smiled and said “it’s ok, I’d rather he ask”
Not always is it friendly, I do not like it when a parent scoots their child away like their either going to catch something (I’ve confronted people in the store about that) or brush them off when they start to inquire why or what and say to their kids “we’ll talk about it later” cause we both know they won’t. Then future sister-in-law did that first time I met her & her daughter. Nothing like a lasting first impression. Still scoots around him even though she’s now related.
I realize not everytime do we want or need to explain. Because sometimes we just want to be left alone. But when we have the opportunity to educate others I think we should.
At one time, while out with my mother, people would say things & I’d reply. My mom told me, you don’t have to lecture everyone, I explained I wasn’t lecturing but educating… But since I was embarassing her I wouldn’t do it when I was out with her. Must have been something I said because the next time I went out with her & someone said “oh look he’s sleepy” I just smiled (when really it was his cerebral palsy & he’s early learning neck control) because I didn’t want to embarass her…MOM stepped up and took that moment to EDUCATE. It was a proud moment to see that she understood why you have to educate sometimes.
So not all comments are good, some are bad, some people need educated…but all in all…that chair is a bridge. To quote the Judds “Love can build a bridge, Between your heart and mine, don’t you think it’s time…”