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Prayers welcome but hold the sympathy

This is the final installment of the 10 things that annoy me. Thank you for bearing with me with your continued support. I know some of this was hard to read. It was hard to write. The idea of this blog was to open up the lines of communication so that we can learn from each other. I know I had opportunities to speak up but didn't. It wasn't until I started writing that I realized I should have done something differently. It's hard being a person with a disability when you know people see you as less than them. When you try to go into someplace but can't. Sometimes it is hard to speak up because you don't want to be seen as a complainer. I think what happened to me has happened to many, and not just those with a disability. I hope that those of you who saw an opportunity to advocate instead of walking away will choose to advocate for yourself. I hope to empower others and myself to speak up and communicate better so that we can all understand the unique experiences of our lives.

Photo of me wearing a blue shirt with fat stripes.  On the shirt are various pins people gave me.  I chose this picture to show me with all my innocence's.
Me in my Blues Clues striped shirt wearing various pins people gave me during our visit to Lourdes

Lourdes France

When I was 5 years old I was granted an opportunity of a lifetime. My family, with the generous support of our community, was sponsored to go to Lourdes, France on a pilgrimage with five other local families. Lourdes is a magnificent sanctuary where millions come to pray. It is said that in 1858 a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous had 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Since then millions of visitors have flocked to Lourdes in search of their miracle.

Pray for what is important

Photo: Myself in a wheelchair and my dad standing next to me.  We are lighting a 3 foot long candle.  There are 100's of candles in the back ground.
Me and my dad lighting a candle and leaving a prayer. each candle represents prayers from people before me.

We lit candles, said prayers, went to daily mass and sat in the Grotto taking it all in. People come hoping for a miracle of some kind. Some of the people that were in our pilgrimage group have seen their miracles come true. I know that my mother’s prayer was answered. You see when you go to Lourdes you have the opportunity to leave a prayer in the Grotto. My mom gave hers much thought. She could have prayed for my disability to be removed but she did not. She prayed for strength and courage to face the challenges that she knew would be part of my life forever. I recently asked her why she didn’t pray that my disability would go away. Her answer was simple, if she prayed for my disability to be taken away, she had no guarantee of what I would be given. She knew that if I had courage and strength I could conquer adversity and the challenges that lay ahead of me. She was right.

Leaving prayers with their touch

Photo: my father and me standing with a monk in front of the line for the bone chilling baths which are said to have healing powers.
Me, dad and a brother from a religious order. Behind them is the que people get into to go into the bone chilling baths. The bath is said to hold healing powers.

What little I remember is that the people were welcoming, the bath was ice cold, I mean bone chilling cold, and hundreds of people touched me. My mom and dad were impressed with how the disabled were treated as though they were the most important people in this beautiful place. I didn’t realize then but learned later in the trip that by touching me people were leaving prayers with me. A practice people still do to this day.

Hard to explain

Photo of the grotto, a magnificent, carving of St Bernadette into the side of the grotto.  Mom and I are pictured at the base of the alter wearing striped shirts.  This is the place mom left her prayer.
This is the place where mom left her prayer for me.

It's hard to explain how this makes me feel when strangers stop me and pray over me. It depends on the situation as to how it makes me feel. Sometimes it is comforting but other times it makes me wonder why they chose to pray over me.

Don't feel sorry for me

Photo: mom and I smiling for the camera in the pool having fun with the other children that joined us on the pilgrimage.
Swimming in the rooftop pool with some of the people that joined us on the pilgrimage in the background.

In one such incident, my mom and I were at the swimming pool and a lady came up to us and said, "What's your name? I want to add you to our prayer list." This one caught me off guard as I was simply hanging out at the pool swimming and having fun. I told her my name and was very polite but still confused. I wonder what she was thinking. Instead of thinking that this person has sympathy for me. I try to remember what my mom prayed for all those years ago and hope that they are praying for strength and courage. I'm not sure what they are praying for as many people still hold the stereotypical view that disabled people need to be fixed. That they feel sorry for me and my situation. I know it makes them feel better to pray but sometimes it doesn't make me feel better.

Prayers can be tricky

Photo of myself and my grandfather sitting in wheelchairs.  My Pappaw is holding my hand.  Behind us are my dad and Nana. I chose this picture to show the special bond I have with my Pappaw.
Myself, my dad, and my Nana and Pappaw, enjoying each other's company.

Another strange time was in the middle of the pandemic. I was at my Nana's house and we were at the local Walmart. I was sitting with my grandfather. We were a sight, two people in wheelchairs sitting side by side. One young, one old, one with a hidden disability, and one with an obvious one. As I sat there chatting with my grandfather, another man in a wheelchair, a veteran, approached the parked wheelchairs. Without a word he grabbed my hand and started to pray. I wondered what he was thinking. Normally, I wouldn't fret about someone grabbing my hand but these were different times. I lived in the state of 6 feet away, mask up and hand sanitizers, and was visiting the state of wear a mask if you want. Not to mention we had just come out of a self-quarantine. Needless to say, I let him pray. For some reason though I think he was saying a different prayer than most because he knew that life in a wheelchair had its challenges but also had its rewards.

I believe in the power of prayer

Photo: I chose this picture of me and my mom holding my graduation cap which says All that I am and hope to be. I owe to those who believe in me!  Mom is wearing white pants and a blue and white flowered shirt and i am wearing a hot pink dress.
Mom and I now. Without her prayer, for courage and strength, I don't know where I would be. Photo Cred: J Lynch Sunshine & Wild Air Photography

That being said, I believe in the power of prayer. I get that people want to pray for me and do. All I ask is that you understand that sometimes it is unnerving to have people grab your hand, hold their hand over your head and pray. Many times I have said my prayers and have prayed for someone who has asked for them, for whatever reason. I have prayed for pets, brothers, sisters, grandparents, strangers, moms, and dads, but I have never stopped a stranger and prayed over them.

Thank you for reading until the end!

This is the view from my wheelchair, where miracles can make a difference. Always Strive for the Impossible. Come back next week to see how I gobble til I wobble and hear more about my experiences and The View From My Wheelchair.

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