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To the Organization Wearing T-Shirts That Shame People for Taking the Elevator

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Dear event organizers,

It has been a month or so since the stair-climb event you planned at the building next to my work. I was happy to see all of the participants, hear the music coming from the finish area and generally happy about the lively vibe that was brought to the rather bland Financial District of downtown Los Angeles. This moment of happiness was quickly brought to an end as I passed a group of your event workers and volunteers. Brandished across their shirts was your chosen slogan: “Elevators are for wimps!”

Now, it has taken me so long to write out my feelings about this because I was instantaneously angry and sad, but also ashamed that I was having these responses to a few words on a shirt. I put my head down and continued my journey to my building and the tears began to fall. Why? I needed to board the elevator to reach my office on the 42nd floor.

I tried to tell myself I was being silly. I have a chronic illness. There was no way I could climb the stairs to my office, which I was very logically aware of. On a good day, I could probably make it to the seventh floor without feeling like I was going to pass out – provided I didn’t have to carry anything. Realistically though, it just would not happen.

I try incredibly hard not to be “that guy.” I know your signage and t-shirts were not meant as a personal attack on me, but I felt, and still feel, that I am probably not the only person with an invisible, chronic illness who was affected by your slogan choice that day.

I am completely supportive of your efforts to encourage people to exercise. That is, in fact, what your organization is all about. I applaud your event, efforts and organization. You are doing great work, but I have to call into question who came up with your slogan and how many others agreed it was a good one. Was any thought given to the fact that there are people who are not capable of taking the stairs? How about the fact that not all of the aforementioned people are full-time wheelchair-users?

I am still baffled by all of this no matter how many times I think about it. I should not be made to feel bad about myself because of my illness, but that is exactly what happened. Surely, there was a better way you could have worded that slogan without the negative connotations. There had to be an equally effective alternative.

In the end, I am still extremely conflicted about the whole situation. The best I can do is to ask you to be aware that not everyone who looks healthy is. The “cute” slogan you chose to employ was damaging. I implore you to consider these things when planning your next event.

Thinkstock photo via zoff-photo.

Originally published: November 15, 2017
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