Broken bodies

Often we see people who have broken bodies and judge them incompetent. As though the reason their body is broken stems from some mental or psychological deficiency.

It’s so easy to judge a book by it’s cover and then stop there. Covers are there for a reason, they are designed to give a glimpse of the contents inside. Yet those covers don’t tell the full story.

Stephen Hawking is an obvious example. Thought he had a decades long battle with ALS, he was able to be a leader in theoretical physics and cosmology.

I also want to share another, more personal example.

My brother, Steve, lived 20 years longer than the 2 years doctors anticipated when he was born in 1978. His body was obviously flawed and broken from the day he was born with spina bifida. He then also developed hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, had a stroke, and a number of other medical complications.

Throughout his 22 years of life, he made friends, touched people’s lives, and taught me much about what it means to love unconditionally. Due to his medical complexity, he did this from the confines of a wheelchair because he was effectively quadriplegic. He also accomplished this despite a vocabulary limited to 5–6 two-word phrases.

His mind was limited by his body’s ability to support his education and by his ability to communicate. Despite all of that, he was able to make you feel special with a look and a smile. His use of, “hi,” was among the warmest and most genuine I’ve experienced in my life.

Even thought my brother was the center of the first 18 years of my life while he was alive, I have just begun (at 36) to realize how often I judge those who walk differently, speak with impediment, or are simply new to my country.

Over the last few months, I have begun conscious effort to listen to them and learn. There is so much beauty and value in the world of those who look differently than our societal ideals. When I focus on the ideals, I lose out on all that others bring to the table.

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