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To the Father and Son Who Laughed When I Fell: Here's What You Need to Understand

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Trust me, I understand, sir. Many things are funny in this world, including when someone trips and falls. I mean, I fall victim to laughing at times when a friend slips on ice or accidentally trips on something; however, when a person is obviously using a device or if this person happens to be elderly, the time to help pops in the brain. Nothing funny of the sort comes into mind.

My favorite time of the year is Christmas, but Christmas shopping is definitely a scary experience for me. I have limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2B, one of the many forms of muscular dystrophy. At a progressive rate, my muscles in my legs, shoulders, and pelvis are wasting away, but do not worry folks, my spirits are far from wasting.

Christmas shopping is scary; no parking, erratic drivers, beat-you-down-and-steal-whatever-is-in-your-cart type of shoppers, heck I stopped at the stop sign at the intersection of the shopping center I go to and got harassed by the driver behind me because I stopped at the stop sign. Well, typically I wait to Christmas shop before Thanksgiving and finish the last week before Christmas because typically the stores I usually go to are not as busy for holiday season around those times, which means less stress, anxiety, and pain; however, this year was rather sad and appalling to me.

Soon I will be getting my joystick wheelchair, but for the time being I have reduced my walking, and if I do walk I use a device, my cane. I was walking in the store I was Christmas shopping in and I was using a cart to maintain my balance and posture and hit a rack of clothes, making me trip and almost fall.

When I trip and do not fall, typically I need someone there to help me regain my balance by holding my hands or back or whatever works in the moment, so thank goodness my mom was by my side — until I heard a hurtful, disappointed, and quite frankly rude gesture. While I almost tripped and fell, a father and his young son burst out laughing and pointed at me. In the moment, forgive me when I say this, I wanted to hit that father with my cane, but of course that is not the right thing to do. I am an individual who gets fired up fast and thinks a billion and one thoughts, but I did something I do not usually do: I was left speechless with my jaw down to the floor.

I remember growing up and my mom telling me to accept everyone for who they are and help a person who may be in need or in trouble or hurt. I was told never to bully, never to judge, never to shame anyone. I understand I am young and do not have the muscle strength of people my age. I can’t go out to the club with my girls and wear heals, I can’t play any physical sport like I did as a kid or even go to half the concerts I want to due to no seating. I am excellent with children and used to babysit a lot, so when I try and interact with a child I just met or see at the store and that child asks their parent why am I walking with a cane and usually the parent says, “Do not talk about that girl or look at her,” like I am a freak or something, I don’t understand. Yes, hello, I am young adult with a cane and soon-to-be-wheelchair. I am not contagious if you are wondering, parents. Trust me, I will not infect your children with the itty bitty meanie weenie muscle destroyer villains making a holiday feast out of my muscle tissue.

Does anyone think the reason behind judgment and bullying has to do with inconsistencies in our education or learning experiences? Children from a young age are often told not to bully. They’re often told how culturally diverse the world is. However, children do not seem to be taught about differing abilities like my muscular dystrophy, and I believe parents and teachers are to blame.

I am not trying to call out parents or teachers, but most of the time people want to look at differing abilities and just sweep them under the rug, like they’re not an issue. We see this with other issues like racism too, of course. We sweep the things that make us uncomfortable under the rug because there is no need to “add fuel to the fire” or “stir the pot.”

But if we do not talk about these issues, we will get nowhere. We have to talk about the issues considered “hush-hush” to promote and advocate change. I’ve even gone to the extent to ask parents I know their thoughts on teaching young children that the world is not only diverse in color but also abilities, and many were afraid to teach or even talk about differing abilities. Many people in this world also have differing mental or cognitive abilities, different physical abilities, invisible illnesses etc., and these all affect people from different genders, colors, and ages and provide an even more diverse world, but so many individuals are nervous to offend or talk about individuals with differing abilities in fear of showing what is not “normal,” when in fact, there is no “normal.” Throw the word “normal” out of your vocabulary.

We should embrace our differences, accept our similarities, realize our faults, and educate the world to fully promote inclusion. Just because my legs do not function in a “typical” manner does not make me any lesser than you or better than you.

So to the man and his son Christmas shopping who laughed at something I consider serious, I hope you had a happy holiday, and I hope the new year educates you and provides you fully with an understanding.

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Thinkstock photo by Highwaystarz-Photography

Originally published: January 27, 2017
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