This past week I've had two notable conversations with two different people. One of the conversations left me speechless and the other conversation encouraged optimism and hope. I always say one of the benefits of my condition is the ability to see humanity at its best. Many people stop me when I am walking my dog to tell me how great it is to see me out and about and how much I encourage them just simply walking my dog. Runners clap and cheer for me as they pass by and always share a few kind words. So much so, last summer I was down at the river, walking Belle, and I noticed an unusual amount of people cheering and yelling. They were saying things like, "Way to go, keep it up, you are almost finished!" I thought maybe it was a nice day and everyone was just really happy. I was so confused until I saw cones, signs with mile markers, and a finish line in the distance. I was apparently dead last in a race.
However, I also have conversations that boggle my mind and leave me chuckling. I rarely, if ever, feel angry or judged. A lot of people say a lot of silly comments, not harmful silly, just funny silly. I lead with kindness, rather than trying to prove something or correct them, but sometimes I can hardly speak for fear of bursting into nose-snorting laughter. My medical services company, a company I've worked with for twelve and a half years now, called this past week. I am in regular contact with this company because I order supplies or ask them to set up services I might need. They are hired by my insurance company to provide such services. A representative, with a nursing degree, called and stated she needed to ask me a few questions. I obliged. She asked about the performance of my cleaning service, if I recieved my supplies in a timely manner, and then she asked me a question I could not believe I was hearing. She asked, "And one last thing, are you still using your wheelchair?" I paused and said, as kindly as possible, "Yes, yes I am. I am paralyzed." Then she asked, "Well do you know how long you will be using your wheelchair?" This time I really paused because I honestly didn't know how to respond. I laughed and replied, "Well, I am paralyzed from the waist down which means I can't walk or feel my legs at all. So, until there is some sort of miracle cure, I will be using a wheelchair for the duration of my life." And then she said this, "Oh, well okay, please let us know when you don't need one anymore." I could only say, through giggles, "Sure thing, I'll call you right away." I did not stop laughing for days. Every time I recounted the story, I laughed even harder. I told my doctor and he was left speechless as well. I guess she knows something about paralysis I don't know. I guess I should also appreciate her optimism.
I also have conversations that teach me lessons. Like the conversations I regularly have with my friend Ashlea's four year old daughter. Every time I see her daughter, Kate, she asks about my legs. She wants to know why I can't find a doctor to fix them and asks if I am very, very sure I looked everywhere for a good doctor. I never, ever mind these questions and always try to explain to her that it isn't the doctor's fault, they are just broken and don't work. She usually asks, I answer, and then she is on to the next thing which is usually discussing favorite princesses, favorite colors, and climbing up my wheelchair to sit in my lap. She usually only mentions it once, still asks me to get her drinks and carry things and completely accepts me as I am. A few days ago, she asked again. This time she questioned, "Are you sure, are you really, really sure your legs are broken forever?" I said, "Yes, I'm very sure they are broken for a long, long time." Then she quietly said, "I just want you to be able to go up and down stairs." While trying to hide my tears, I replied, "I do too, Kate, I do too." Later, I used the restroom and told her I would be right back. She asked, "Hey, how are you going to get out of your chair to go to the bathroom?" I told her I would just use my arms and then demonstrated how I lift myself. She thought for a minute and with as much authority as a four year old can muster she said, "Well, you need to be careful, I don't want you to hurt your legs any more just in case we find a doctor to fix them!" I told her not to worry and promised to be careful.
Kate reminds me every time I see her and hear her innocently hopeful and optimistic questions not to let go of hope and determination. She has no idea how much she teaches me and reminds me of such powerful lessons. She never gives up and honestly believes one day I will walk upstairs with her and play with her dollhouse. I need her questions, her spirit, and her innocence. They come in handy on the days when I am running low on optimism. The world is simple to her, doctors fix what is broken and prayers are answered.