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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.