Why I Ask People to 'Give Me Five' as a Person With a Disability
“Do you have polio?” “Why are you so pretty but so small?” “Does a nurse live with you?” “Oh, I can’t date a ‘handicapped’ person.” These are the types of questions and comments I deal with every day of my life.
I am a 4-foot tall woman living with a rare disease, McCune-Albright syndrome which deformed my bones enough that I need to walk with crutches and also gave me my period at the very young age of 9 months old. It was extremely difficult as a child to go from walking with nothing to walking with crutches at the age of 5 years old, but today I feel great, still walk with crutches, and still get my period. But instead of the orthopedic sneakers my doctors always wanted me to wear, I decided to swap them out for stilettos or platform shoes I wear every day as I walk in New York City.
Being a New Yorker, you have to walk everywhere, and therefore I probably stick out like a sore thumb. Like I said, I am 4 feet tall with red hair, walk with crutches and wear stilettos. Of course I stick out! The problem is that people look at me and literally size me up all day long. Whether they stare me down, look back as they pass me on the street, or physically say something to me, people often think they know who I am and what my life is like. It doesn’t matter who it is, adults, children, and sometimes even animals. Well, I don’t know what animals think about me, but they certainly bark at me sometimes!
If you know me, you would never think to yourself “Poor Lauren. How does she live? Is her life hard because she is physically disabled?” And more importantly, “How can she walk with crutches and stilettos?” The answer is yes; I am physically disabled, but mentally I am just like everyone else. So why do so many people want to be the producers of my life?
Therein lies the question I have been asking myself forever and the answer came to me shortly after I wrote my book “Unstoppable in Stilettos.” People think they know who I am, and as a matter of fact, who all disabled people are and feel bad for them. Are you feeling bad because we don’t look like you or maybe because we don’t have the same exact life? Or because you don’t personally know any disabled people? What you should do is take a chance to get to know someone. Just give five; not a high-five but five minutes. You may have told a very different story in your head about who that person is. Didn’t your mom and or grandmother always say “Get to know someone before you assume who they are.”
If you’re going to take five minutes to get to know someone, what do you ask, what should you do? This is why I created The 5-Minute Rule. It’s really easy…
Introduce yourself, where you are from, and begin the geography game to see if you know someone in common.
Talk about your career, your latest adventure, or where you are in your life. Just see where the conversation goes.
Minute 3 and 4
Now is your chance to ask anything you want. Go for it and see how the person responds. Usually people aren’t afraid to answer anything as long as it’s sincere and coming from a good place. Remember, keep it simple and think before you speak.
Finally, wrap it up and see if you want to continue the conversation, become friends, or potentially date. Regardless, you can say to yourself I am proud I got to know someone who is different.
Remember, in life confidence and self-love can empower us to be better, unstoppable people. So moving forward, be confident in the fact that everyone has a story, and may not be the person you created in your head. Just give them 5!
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.