I don’t know what’s happened to Facebook in the last two weeks. Around Christmas time it was a place where a lot of dialogue was happening. Now it’s bumpersticker-funny picture central. I think most people are probably too downcast to be comfortable sharing what’s in their hearts and so they resort to the constant recycling of motivational snapshots. It’s like going to a cocktail party where everyone is holding a favourite joke up on a stick like a mask while remaining mute.
The problem with this approach is that more and more often folks aren’t thinking about the things they aren’t saying. One look and one quick emotional reaction and then “boom”! Shared! That happened today when this unfortunate picture started making the rounds:
Most people look at that and see the boy’s smile, his human feet replaced with prosthetics and the fact that he’s about to bust through the slogan like the winner’s tape at the end of the run. The natural reaction is to think “what a darling child!” and “if he can run without feet, I can make it until 5:00pm and deal with this annoying coworker!” So they pass it on.
What they don’t see is that there is a world of people out there–and yes, I’m one of them, which is why I’m reacting this way–who cannot run races because they are disabled by body parts that cannot be replaced. There is a world of people out there who are trying to come to grips with being told that they will never be able to [Fill In The Blank] because they have [Fill In The Blank]. And that’s not to mention the many people who are without feet AND don’t have the insurance money for fancy runner’s prosthetics.
These things aren’t “excuses”, they’re real problems. In my world “you have dozens of irremovable tumors pressing against the nerves in your body” and “your immune system is destroying your joint tissue” and “your internal organs are fused together by the equivalent of Gut Kudzu” are real things I have to deal with every day. In my world getting out of bed is sometimes harder than running a race. But I do it. I used to love to run and I no longer can. Are those things excuses? Is there a way I can run even though multiple doctors tell me it’s the worst possible idea? I can swim, do yoga and pilates and other low-impact excercise. Which I do. But I can’t run. Is that an excuse?
And is it _Invalid_? Touchy word to use with people like me in the first place. We used to be called that all the time, albeit with the accent on a different syllable. We know that for centuries society thought we didn’t matter.
Now it seems society is enlightened enough to think that WE matter but that our PROBLEMS don’t. What glorious progress!