When it comes to disability and illness, no one wants or wishes it.
Yet, for many of us, they are a part of life. And, there within that phrase – it’s part of life – resides a key perspective. Yes, disability and illness can be challenging, harrowing and difficult. Yet, may I be bold enough to ask, might they also be life-affirming?
As one who’s had a severe disability for 45 years, works among those with disability and illness, and is immersed in disability culture, I’ve had unique insight into all of the ways disability and illness impact our lives – including for the better. I know it sounds counter-intuitive that disability and illness can positively impact our lives, but they truly can.
While it’s very clear how we’re adversely affected by disability and illness, the rewards are equally poignant. Disability and illness can bring astounding levels of humility and perspective to our lives, and allow us to sometimes see a kinder world, to experience the best in others, to realize what’s truly important. Yes, disability and illness can shine a light on that which is right in our lives, not just the tough stuff.
Roll up to a door in a mobility device in public, and it’s amazing how strangers scramble to open the door in kindness. See who sits by your bedside when you’re ill and experience true love. Realize your own astounding strength when facing challenges and grow in empowerment. Indeed, adversity opens us up to awe-inspiring aspects of life that we may not otherwise experience.
It’s understandable to see negatives in disability and illness; however, life is not one-dimensional. Disability and illness are a part of life. In fact, disability and illness prove to be many parts of our lives.Yes, difficult at times. Other times, indifferent. But, let us not overlook the positives, as well – that is, what disability and illness teach us, show us, and gift us.
Helen Keller wrote, “It has been said that life has treated me harshly; and sometimes I have complained in my heart because many pleasures of human experience have been withheld from me…if much has been denied me, much, very much, has been given me.
Indeed, for all of us, regardless of plight, when we look at the other side of the coin, it, too, shows how much we’ve been given.