It Takes One

Posted: July 7, 2007 in Wheelchair Wisdom

You’ve likely heard the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child,” expressing the sentiment that community responsibility as a whole is vital when it comes to making a difference in the lives of those around us.

However, that adage, as well intending as it is, doesn’t always prove true. The fact is, it doesn’t “take a village” to facilitate change, to impact the life of another; rather, it takes only one person to facilitate change, one person willing to assume responsibility, one person to accept accountability, one person to come forward and address an issue, to make a difference.

Every evening, via email, I receive newswire articles relating to the word “wheelchair.” Throughout the year, the news stories come and go, from inspirational to absurd to heart wrenching. However, the ones that jump out at me the most are the ones where people are truly in need, where someone’s wheelchair was stolen, destroyed in a fire, or such. The articles’ photos are always the same scene – a person sitting in a hospital-type manual wheelchair that was donated by the community, that’s far too wide, without a cushion, horribly positioned.

My daughter and I read one such article several months ago, of a 15-year-old young man whose manual wheelchair was stolen from his family’s porch. And, there he sat, awkward, in a hospital-type wheelchair that looked three-times his size.

“What’s going to happen to him?” my daughter asked.

“They’ll either find his chair, or they’ll get him a new one,” I replied.

“What if they don’t find his chair or get him a new one?” she asked.

My daughter was on to a key question: What is the ultimate outcome of such stories? How or when does an individual get back into appropriate mobility after such a devastating event, and does community outpouring resolve the situation?

I contacted the reporter, and he explained that it was terrific that the good Samaritans had donated the hospital-type wheelchair, that the young man’s provider was appealing to the insurance company to buy him a new wheelchair. Understandably, the reporter didn’t seem to know the difference between one wheelchair and another, nor did he seem to realize that the young man was in mobility limbo without an appropriate wheelchair for his needs. Through my conversation with the reporter, it sounded like it was the end of the story – that is, the community had donated the hospital-type wheelchair, and the provider was submitting to the insurer for a new wheelchair.

Yet, the boy still lacked appropriate mobility, where everyday without an appropriate wheelchair was a day lost, where one aware person could make all the difference, where one person could likely order a new, appropriate wheelchair, having it delivered within in a few days. Maybe it meant an inspired individual using some of his or her own money to fund a new wheelchair, or maybe it meant quickly collecting cash donations, or maybe it meant calling a wheelchair manufacturer to donate a custom wheelchair. By any means, one tenacious individual could have helped restore the young man’s mobility in a matter of days, not weeks or months. One inspired individual could have immediately taken action, fostering the young man’s mobility and independence, rather than simply closing the newspaper, trusting that the community at large would address the issue.

In the new year, I encourage you to be that one person to make a difference, the one who doesn’t close the newspaper on such stories, the one who makes the phone calls on behalf of your fellow wheelchair user in need, ensuring that his or her mobility isn’t left in limbo, that his or her mobility is properly restored.

Sure, the “village” may seemingly address issues, but it’s up to you to make a true difference.

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