Monday, July 20, 2009


"Does it hurt?" her eyes were huge, as if trying to take all of me in. Her mother was picking out bread and I was waiting behind her to do the same. I looked down at the sound of the wee small voice and was immediately reminded of Cindy Lou Who. "No, it doesn't hurt," I answered. She nodded, thoughtful, and said "Good." Her mother, oblivious to our little conversation reached down for her and and they were off, I moved in to grab a couple of loaves myself.

Later, as I do with these things, I thought about that few seconds and wondered if I'd been entirely honest with her. I knew that she was wondering if my disability physically hurt, and sometimes, truthfully, it does a bit. Not worth mention or complaint but sometimes I feel pain in my feet and legs. So, it was a wee bit of a fib, but one that I was entirely comfortable with. My pain is such that if my attention is drawn away for a second "SQUIRREL" I forget about it entirely.

But disability does hurt sometimes. Because prejudice hurts. Because attitudes bruise. Because heirarchies are always stairs, never ramps. Of course I'm hurt when I want to get into a building that is inaccessible to me. Of course I feel less valued when others walk in while I wait outside. And yes, it's true, it hurts when others feel smugly superior simply because I sit and ride while they walk and run. It's true that I can feel attitude like a vice grip on my neck. Fine, I'll admit that I'm touched differently, talked to differently, reacted to differently than I was before. I'll admit that it pisses me off most of the time.

Does it hurt?

Yes, I suppose it does.

Yet you should have seen the little moment of relief on her face. Her worry for me that 'I hurt' was genuine. "Good," she said to the idea of a world where disability did not hurt because prejudice did not exist, barriers did not deny and attitudes were welcoming.

And so say I.

There was 'Good' in that little heart.

And in that moment, it didn't hurt.

So in the end, I told the truth.


Liz Miller said...

And now I'm all verklempt.

CJ said...

My youngest son was 4 and had severely delayed language. He went to a special education pre-school in the country that had all types of disabled kids. He used to scream and cry when he got off of the bus. It took a long time for us to figure out what was bothering him. Eventually we did.

He thought the physically disabled kids "hurt."

Renee said...

What a powerful post. Thanks so much for sharing.