Image Description: Bad line drawing of a man in a power wheelchair racing a child down a sidewalk of a residential street.
Just living in a neighbourhood, being out and about, you get to have a nodding acquaintance with the ‘regulars’ who you see, well, regularly. Living at the centre of Canada’s largest city means that there are so many people, tourists, visiting business people, and other such strangers. There is a comfort in seeing others who call this place home.
I ran into one such woman yesterday. She has two small children, one a boy of about three another a little girl who is about to enter toddlerhood. We’ve spoken only once, a time when Ruby and Sadie were with us, when she remarked on how wonderfully the girls worked with us when we were out together. Her children were struggling with simple safety rules, seeing her as a tyrant rather than a loving protector.
Yesterday we all ran into each other on one of the quiet side streets of the city, both going the same direction. Her son looked up at her, and said, “But mom, I have to race, I JUST HAVE TO.” There was both plea and desperation in his voice. She looked over at me and said, “Will you?” I looked down at him and said, “I’ll race you to the tree up there.” He looked at me and said, “Really?” Then looked at his mother for confirmation. She shouted, “1, 2, 3, Go!” And we were off.
He beat me by a few seconds. Like Ruby and Sadie used to do, he ran screaming for joy all the way. He laughed and joked with me about the race as his mother, her daughter and Joe caught up to where we were waiting. She thanked me, I told her, as I had told him, that I like to race too.
We parted ways by me telling the little boy that next time I’d beat him fair and square. He looked at me, defiant, ‘Never!”
It was a great start to what turned out to be a great day. I liked being recognized as a fellow human being who, because I was in a wheelchair, was uniquely qualified to help out. I liked being recognized as someone from the neighbourhood who knew what it was to be out with kids and knew what it was to keep them safe. I like being recognized as all of me. A disabled man who was at the right place at the right time, with a chair raring for a race.
She didn’t see the person first.
She saw and needed me – disability, chair and all else that came with it.
I am a disabled man. And I can race children to trees with the best of them. All of me, all of me, all of me. That what I want, people to see all of me. My disability, my chair, my me … all of it together, because that’s the package.
The whole package.