We’re All Role Models on This Bus

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These are the kinds of roles we can all model. Disabled people often hear how inspiring we are. “I’m amazed the way you keep going in spite of…whatever.”  Some of us hate that, because nobody is trying to be inspiring. We’re just trying to live.  But I have learned to appreciate those compliments. If I make people feel better, what’s wrong with that?

I used to work out at the YMCA pool with a guy named Joseph who was born without arms.  He swims by wearing huge fins and breathing through a snorkel. He can do a lot of things with his mouth.  One day, he told me had just been to the supermarket, and the checkout clerk had told him how inspiring he was, being able to shop by himself and all. Joseph replied, “I’m sure if I knew what you were going through, I’d think you were inspiring, too.”

Everybody I tell that to thinks it’s a great answer. The clerk didn’t want to hear it, though.  “Oh, no, my problems are nothing compared to yours,” she said.  She hadn’t accepted yet that she was a role model.  Have you?

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7 Responses to We’re All Role Models on This Bus

  1. While it is true we can always find people in worse situations than ourown, it is even more true that we do inspire, and help. Having been in AA recovery for 21 years, I have noticed that even the slightest bit of caring works. When I worked the HIV suicide hot line our basic premise was “to listen,” and to find ways to support and encourage return calls. Being there can so often be a form of leadership.

  2. DJ Woolley says:

    It’s a primate thing -we are wired to imitate, and learn from, each other. It’s pretty cool that any one of us, simply by our actions or attitude, can encourage others to be their better selves, or to just keep going. Big up to Joseph for his spot-on response to the store clerk, wish I’d thought of it!

  3. Often when we ask someone what they are good at, they will say, “Oh nothing much. I just like to talk to people or I like to sew or I like to cook. . . ,” or any of a hundred things that seem so ordinary. But to someone who is extremely sky, talking is a challenge. To people who can’t find the hole in the needle, sewing is extreme art. To someone who can’t boil eggs, cooking is a mystery. For everything we do well without effort, there is someone who would love to change places with us.

  4. Toni Gilbert says:

    Two thumbs up David.

  5. Dan Brook says:

    Thanks for sharing this really important post. I talk to my students about issues like these, telling them that it’s not a matter of becoming a role model, but that they already are: to family and friends, to neighbors and classmates, and even to complete strangers who happen to see them do something, say something, buy something, or not do, say, or buy something.

  6. I like reading about what people are thinking, doing, experiencing, particularly when it aspires others who may be depressed at the moment.

  7. I like reading about slices of life that can inspire other planet dwellers, especially if it inspires those who may be depressed at the moment.

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