“Hey, let me do it,” my sister whispered while reaching for my french fries. As she offered to feed me, I tried to count how many people were watching me fail to feed myself with my dysfunctional right hand.
For just a moment, I want you to step into my shoes. You’re 23 years old. You graduated summa cum laude from college. You’re working on your Master’s. You’re disappointed if you receive anything below a 95 on a paper. You love cooking and baking. You enjoy exploring cities.
But now you’re facing a health complication. You’ve lost the ability to use your dominant hand, leaving you with one dysfunctional hand that barely wiggles. You just moved to a new city, but you don’t feel well enough to explore. Even when you finally feel decent enough to go out to eat with family or get a snow cone with your spouse, you still can’t use your hands. You’re already embarrassed by your condition, and now your loved one has to feed you in public. People stare at you, but they look away as soon as you make eye contact with them. They think they’re sneaky, but they’re not. You eventually take the snow cone back to your apartment so that you won’t feel so ostracized.
I’ve endured these incidents for almost 24 years — and I’m still embarrassed when people stare at me. People may assume this is my problem to solve, but this is OUR problem. When we stare at people because they’re not “like us,” we ostracize and embarrass them. We make them feel like it’s not okay to be a little different. We fail to value our diversity and appreciate our differences. I can’t solve this problem alone, but perhaps we can begin to solve this problem by remembering that we’re all a little different. None of us should feel alienated because our differences aren’t identical to someone else’s differences.