Not long ago, there was a story in the press about a disabled twelve-year-old boy whose class went on a hiking trip. The boy thought he’d have to miss the excursion and was very sad about it, but his classmates decided they were not going to let it happen. They arranged for a special wheelchair and took him along. Throughout the hike, they pushed him along the trail, and the boy felt like one of them, an equal among equals.
There is a profound lesson in this story. On the surface, it seems like the classmates were wonderful kids who helped their disabled classmate, and he was the handicapped whom they helped. This is true, but it is only part of the truth, and not the deeper part. The deeper part is that through his disability, the boy helped his classmates rise above themselves, above their egos, and connect with another human being. That gift he has given them is the greatest gift that anyone can give.
By allowing others to help, a disabled person gives the helpers an opportunity to connect, to work together. When we emerge from the sense of self, from the obsessive preoccupation with what we want, how to get what we want, how not to get hurt, and all the other “Me! Me! Me!” thoughts, we enter a new world, carefree and happy. Disabled people, who desperately need our help to do what we take for granted, make it possible for us to venture into that new world precisely through their vulnerability.
Our duty to them, therefore, is to do what we can to make them feel that they are not limited by their situation, that they are equal to us in every way. It is as if nature is sending us a message calling us to rise to a new world of freedom from ourselves, and the bearers of the message are the disabled people in our midst. This is why it is our duty to help them, and our gain if we do.
Disabled veteran and first responder cyclists are seen as they participate in Project Hero’s California Challenge — a week-long bicycle ride from Santa Cruz to Los Angeles, California increasing awareness to combat the national mental health emergency posed by PTSD and TBI. Friday, October 22, 202, in Santa Barbara, California, United States. (Photo by Jason Whitman/NurPhoto)
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