By Mark E. Smith
I had the privilege of being at a public venue with a five-year-old and his mother. The little boy uses a power chair due to a severe form of muscular dystrophy – and, man, he’s a go-getter! He’s happy, adorable, and a people magnet. And, everyone at the event saw what I saw: An adorable little boy with the world at his finger tips.
Yet, as he was literally surrounded by crowds who thought he was the cutest kid ever, there was a side that many didn’t know, nor wanted to know. Everyone wants to be inspired and delighted but a cute kid buzzing around in a power chair being… well… a kid. After all, it’s painful to think of any other possibilities, that maybe his life isn’t what it seems, that it might be disturbingly complex, something no child should experience.
And, so, as he charmed the crowds, I was with his mom, knowing the whole story. The seemingly care-free little boy averages one hospital stay per month, sleeps hooked up to a breathing machine, and he must be turned every few hours to keep his lungs clear at night. For his mom – single, with three children – this means around-the-clock care. And, get this, she works from 12:00am to 3:00am as a reservations clerk from home to help make ends meat. The carefree child and family that all assumed, in fact, has unfathomable challenges every day. I discussed the challenges with the mom and gave her a hug, and she got a bit teary-eyed.
How many of us can relate to this story? How many of us gloss over the challenges of others because they’re too painful to learn the realities? How many of us hide our own struggles because we don’t want others to see us as different, to know how difficult our lives really are?
But, we all have struggles. And, when we don’t recognize them in others or disclose our own at appropriate times, a facade goes up and we don’t make connections to the depths that our humanity allows. No, we shouldn’t then treat each other “differently,” but more authentically.
My point is, let us strive to recognize and embrace the entirety of others, and allow others to know the entirety of us, struggles and all, where adversity isn’t ignored but unites.