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To the People Staring and Laughing at the Way I Walk

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To the people who stare at me while I’m walking down the street, the people who stare at me while shopping and to the people whispering among themselves while I walk past you: I see and hear you. I can see your lips moving and hear giggles coming out of your mouth. I can feel your eyes watching aimlessly at me while I walk by you with a limp or a strange gait. I get that you’re not used to it — that a person who is so young is walking like this. Yes, I know I stand out amidst the crowds you’re used to seeing. I know I walk with a limp at times. I know I walk really slow and I’ll stop walking to catch my breath. I know you don’t understand.

To the people who laughed at me when I fell because my leg gave out when I was walking, I know you don’t understand what it’s like to have a leg stop working when you’re trying to get errands done. I know it’s hard to realize it happens. But it’s not OK to continue pointing and laughing. It’s not OK to not show respect to another human. Instead of laughing, ask if I’m OK or need some help.

There’s a lot you do not know. You do not know what the real cause for it is. You do not understand that I hate having to take resting breaks while shopping with my friends because I get tired more easily than they do. That I physically cannot help it. It’s not your fault you don’t understand. People with illnesses don’t expect you to understand. It would be shocking if you did.

Something I want you to understand is we want to be treated like everyone else. We’re people just like you. Yes, we may “stand out” to you, but since when is standing out a bad thing? It’s not a bad thing to not blend in with the crowd. Everyone has something different about them than someone else and everyone has a story. Whether it’s visible or not, it’s there. We didn’t ask to have the health issues we have. We didn’t want them.

Having the health issues we have, and knowing/meeting others with health conditions, has taught us a lot. It’s taught us to be more accepting of others because we know what it’s like to not be accepted by people. It’s also taught us not to judge someone based off of how they appear to the general eye. That there’s more to a person than what is visible. It’s the inside of the person that truly matters. So while you’re busy judging me by how I appear, I’m out living my life and having fun.

To the people judging, staring and laughing at me, I won’t hold it against you because I know you don’t understand what it’s like to go through some of this stuff. But I challenge you to put your ego behind you. Help someone if you see them struggling. If someone near you falls, ask if they’re OK or need assistance. Don’t be afraid to talk to us. Say hello as we walk by and most importantly, be kind to us. We don’t judge, stare or laugh at you, so please show us the same respect.

Originally published: July 7, 2016
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