Most everyone responded to the fact that she had been cruel and that if I had accepted her apology that night, she would learn nothing from the interchange. At the time, I felt exactly the same way. I wanted her to have something to reflect on, something that might give her a shove towards change. Even so, I’m left with me, not her, I’m left with me and my anger and my hurt and my steadfast refusal to accept her apology. She may have learned something about herself, but, then, I learned something about myself as well.
Kindness is easy when people ‘deserve’ it.
But here’s the thing.
It’s not my job to be an object lesson for others.
It’s not my responsibility for someone else’s growth.
It’s not life’s work to edify anyone.
Without wanting to sound selfish, shouldn’t I be able to simply live my life for me, not the inspiration or education of others?
Shouldn’t I be able to take the easy way out of situations so that I don’t end up bruised, so that my soul doesn’t grow a hard shell?
Why is she more important in that situation than me? Why is her edification more important than the way I will feel about this the next day and, obviously, years later?
Disabled people don’t exist solely for the betterment of humankind, no matter what Tiny Tim said. Disabled people need to grab onto their our lives and live them defiantly. We need to take care of ourselves as we interact with those who would use us, those would would anecdotalize their interactions with us, those who would take from us will still thinking us beggars. We have stories too.
Stories that visit us at night, stories that always end up being about someone else rather than ourselves. It’s hard, even for me, a storyteller, to place disability at the center of the stage, rather than something that is acted upon, responded to or drained of personal colour.
Disabled stories matter.
Disabled lives need to be lived in such a way that we are each the protagonist in our own lives. That is a much harder task than you might think.