Sunday, December 23, 2012

What is it to be disabled?

What is it to be disabled?

Is there a difference between a disabled person, and a person who has a disability?

A person who has a disability is a person who has gained the ability to support other people with increased interest and compassion, along with the ability to accept support graciously from others. 

On the other hand, a disabled person is one who can neither support other people nor willingly accept support from others.

I had an aunt who in her old age was constrained by rheumatoid arthritis from doing much of anything when she had a flare-up. Yet she unfailingly took an interest in members of our family and stayed involved with us. 

We occasionally received little notes, gifts and clippings in the mail from Aunt Dorothy, and when we visited her she would always be making a gift for someone. She always treated you as the most important and brilliant person she knew.

In addition, Aunt Dorothy accepted support from others with grace. Her younger brother took care of her housekeeping and provided companionship. He was loving and faithful and she was happy and grateful. She had a collection of lifelong friends, young and old, near and far, who also took an interest in her.

Aunt Dorothy got out and enjoyed the sunshine with us when she could, and when she could not get out she brought sunshine to us in other ways. 

Aunt Dorothy was "out of commission" physically much of the time, but she was not disabled. 

Aunt Dorothy showed me that a person may choose between becoming disabled, or becoming a person with a disability. May I remember this as age and circumstances limit me. As impairments arrive, may I be a person who has them, and not a person who is them.