By Mark E. Smith
I’m always surprised when I meet someone with a disability who comes across as seemingly brash, egotistical, and insensitive toward others. It simply contradicts what I know as disability experience, and I can’t fathom how anyone with disability assumes any sort of attitude of arrogance when disability is so intrinsically humbling?
I mean, sure, I recognize that disability doesn’t preclude any human condition, that one with a disability can prove just as inherently dysfunctional as another. However, again, how does one not become humbled by disability, at least on some level? That is, how does one live with disability and not realize how grounded all of us truly our in our lives?
Disability experience has taught me that as successful as any of us become, we are still intrinsically human, with real struggles and challenges, no matter who we are. Every morning, when I go through my routine to get up and out the door for work, it’s an uphill battle due to cerebral palsy, where some mornings, I feel like the process of getting myself from my bed to the shower to the breakfast table is a try-till-you-die, 5 am morning drill for the Marines.
However, there’s an affirmation to it all. I am reminded every morning that, as a man, I have limitations, that perfection and idealism will never be in my grasp – and, it’s alright. I am reminded how extremely fortunate I am to have physical abilities to at least some extent, and what a remarkable gift it is to have people in my life like my wife to turn to when I need assistance with even the simplest task like buttoning my shirt. And, I’m reminded that, as human beings, none of us are perfect, that we all face challenges, that we all need assistance at times, and that there’s tremendous value in recognizing the commonality among us.
In this way, disability gives us the gift of being humble, of appreciating the limitations that we all have, of valuing the challenges that we each face, and of how we should embrace the graciousness of others who care. Indeed, it’s tough to be arrogant when life with disability proves so wonderfully humbling.