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When Strangers Are Curious About My Disability

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I have cerebral palsy and use a wheelchair. When I’m out, I usually hate being stared at. Kids. Adults. It doesn’t matter. I don’t like it. Tonight though, I was at Michael’s getting decorations for my graduation cap, and a family was in front of me at the checkout line. I caught the little girl in the family looking at me throughout the checkout process. I could tell she was curious about my situation, so it wasn’t all that strange.

Maybe having a friend with me helped. Maybe I’m just getting older and wanting to educate others on my capabilities and similarities. Who knows. Anyway, the family with the little girl talked about going to Cracker Barrel for dinner, and as she continued to look at me when her family asked her if that sounded good, I really wanted to say I like Cracker Barrel too, to start a simple conversation of acceptance. I chickened out and they left before I could say anything. I felt really bad because I wanted to make a difference.

A few minutes later, my friend and I went to Cold Stone to just decompress from errands. We were in line behind a family of four — a mom, dad, daughter and son, anywhere from 2-4 years old. The mom was holding the son, who had his face turned in my direction. Before I even realized he was looking my way, I heard him say hi and it made me feel a sigh of relief. I was able to smile, say hi, and have a conversation with him about ice cream and a conversation with his mom about the wild weather I’ve experienced since moving here.

I learned a few things tonight. There are some kids and parents who are curious. There are also kids and parents who see you as no different from them. Both situations are normal and important. Never feel bad about what you did or didn’t say, because there is a right time for everything. At least I didn’t leave both stores feeling completely alone and misunderstood as I would in the past. Some situations are still tough for me, but even the smallest amount of growth matters. Tonight I am going to bed feeling proud and thankful.

Originally published: November 26, 2019
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