Thursday, January 01, 2009

A lesson in perspective

I love this kid. Who says you can't go to the skatepark and kick ass in a wheelchair?

His name is Aaron Fotheringham. He has spina bifida. Which is supposedly a good reason to just abort babies, since they couldn't possibly have a good and active life.

Tell Aaron that. And tell the company that makes his (evidently indestructable) wheelchairs. They use him to plug their equipment:

I found him looking for Mark Zupan's appearance on Larry King. (Can't find it; it was on the Extras on the "Murderball" DVD, but apparently not on YouTube.) But here's Zupan:

King had Zupan and some of his teammates, and the young guy, Kevin, who had just been injured at the time "Murderball" was filmed. After talking about the sport, about how they ended up with mobility issues, etc., King tried to get them into embryonic stem cell research. No doubt he expected them to go all Christopher Reeve on him. But to a man they just dismissed the whole issue with two words: "Not interested." King was stunned. "But... don't you want a cure?"

Comments to the effect of, "I'm not broken. I don't need to be fixed."

King pushed. "If somebody had some magic elixir, if they could..."



"Look at our lives," they said. "We travel. We play sports. We meet great people. We have great lives. And we wouldn't change a thing."

And King had to stop projecting his own prejudices onto them.

When I first started taking Wolf Wolfensburger's "Social Role Valorization" (SRV) trainings, I wondered why he stressed pity as a poisonous response to somebody facing challenges. I thought, "Wouldn't pity move you to help the person?" But Wolfensburger was and is right -- pity is a poison. From pity you move to wanting to put the person out of his or her misery -- but it's really your misery, not theirs.

I was watching a documentary about the Hensel twins at my parents' house. My mother kept saying, "Oh, those poor little things!"

Where did that pity come from? Not from anything the girls were suffering. Does this look like suffering to you?

They play sports. They have a loving family, teachers and friends who love them. They're confident and capable. What's to pity?

I imagine Mark Zupan overhearing somebody lamenting the plight of "that poor crippled boy". He'd probably kick their ass. And Aaron? He'd probably not even consider them worth his attention.

Word to the wise: Don't project your perceptions onto other people's lives. Odds are that "poor crippled kid" is doing better than you think. And that wildly successful able-bodied person might be miserable underneath -- as we too often learn when somebody who seemed to have everything going for them commits suicide.

Reflections prompted by this post.


C said...

I was thinking about just this kind of thing today when I was watching a video about the nature of time and a Stephen Hawking interview popped up. ALS hasn't stopped him.

Particular Baptist said...

Here is another video you'd probably like -- he has no arms and no legs, but gives inspirational speeches: