"You are in a wheelchair now."
I hadn't seen him for a long while and he was startled to see the set of wheels that I travel with. We caught up with what was going on in his life. I told him what was going on in mine. He really wanted to know that I was OK that the wheelchair wasn't an indicator of ill health but that it was just how I moved now. I assured him.
Then he moved into something a little more serious and I sat and listened, interested. I waited until he was finished and then asked him a question or two more to clarify my understanding. He paused and then continued to fill me in. When done, he waited for me to speak. I took my time to think, some big things were presented to me. I had seen real growth in how he sees himself and the world he lives in. For the first time I heard concepts come out of him that were fully formed and mature, responsibility, personal choices, just consequences. Wow.
Finally I spoke up and he listened careful to what I was thinking. It was a unique kind of consultation because it was so reciprocal. It ended with him thanking me for my time, me thanking him for his.
He shook my hand and said, "You are so different now."
Without saying, I knew the 'now' meant, now that I had a disability.
I said, 'How am I different.'
He paused and said, "You listen more slowly."
I think that's the biggest compliment I've ever gotten. And if it took a wheelchair to slow my ears down, it's well worth it. Really. Well worth it.