I possess a superpower. Not really, but I have an odd ability to make orchids bloom many times. Some people really do believe that is a superpower. Honestly, it isn't really me or my superpowers that make orchids bloom. I don't do anything except support them in an environment where I know they will thrive. The orchids bloom all by themselves in the right environment.
I was scrolling through Facebook a few days ago, which is something I do much less often than I used to. I noticed a friend had posted something that stopped me cold. What the post said was, “I’m so sick of people with fake handicaps getting handicap tags for parking.” The person who posted this is generally a very compassionate person. I’m not sure why something like this would even affect him, but obviously it irked him enough to post publicly that it was upsetting to him. I had a visceral reaction. It stopped me cold.
Do we have to see physical evidence of a handicap for it to be real?
I know that “handicap” is not a politically correct term any more. A person in a wheelchair, or a person with cirrhosis of the liver is still a person, but that isn’t the focus of this thought. This Facebook post really affected me personally more than I thought it would, maybe because I have had a handicap parking tag for several years. To look at me most days, you wouldn’t understand why. And, often on days when you would “see” something about me that might lead you to believe I needed that preferential parking, I would be less likely to be out driving around.
People have invisible illnesses. Can we tell by looking at someone if they have debilitating agoraphobia? Can we always tell if a person has Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Crohn’s Disease, or Chronic Fatigue? Do most people believe these are even handicaps?
Only once, in all the time I’ve had a handicap parking tag has someone made a comment to me in a parking lot, “You don’t look handicapped, why do you get to park there?” I responded with something that I would likely not say now, and is not necessarily suitable for writing here. I was so angry that a stranger would think they knew enough about me to judge. It was not what I would consider a good day, and I just needed to get a few groceries.
I have an “invisible illness” as they are sometimes called. Actually I have two, but that isn’t important. What is important is that my illnesses sometimes restrict my lifestyle so much that I won’t do things because I’m worried about having the stamina to walk back to my car afterward if it is parked too far away. In the past, I would forego taking my children to places or events that would have been fun, simply because I was too worried about having to park, walk to a venue, keep up with my kiddos, and then walk back to my car and drive home. It was too much. I happened to mention this in a doctor’s office once, and my doctor immediately said that I needed a handicap tag so this would not impact my quality of life so much, and he signed the paperwork on the spot. At first I was stunned, and not sure that was ok, but really, he patiently explained that for something that was impacting my life so much, if parking closer allowed me to go out more and enjoy things many people take for granted, it was absolutely a good thing. I don’t use my parking tag often, but it is really nice to have it when I need it. Being able to function as fully as possible, and have as “normal” a life as possible sometimes requires a little help. Provide the right environment, or accommodations, and life blooms around us. Giving people the ability to do their thing can benefit all of us, and fills the world with their beauty.
I sent a short response to my friend who had posted the Facebook rant, and mentioned invisible illnesses, and that people may not always be aware of the back story. I wasn’t quite sure how it was perceived. I’m sure though, that I was more open minded and compassionate about what may have happened earlier in his day that made him feel so strongly about parking. Just as we strive not to jump to conclusions about others, shouldn’t we also be striving to think of what brought someone to the point that may have caused such upset? Non-judgement works both ways.