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OPINION | GARY SMITH: A temporary loss of mobility reveals the limits of a compassionate society

Temporary disability becomes an eye-opener by Gary Smith | September 2, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.

One of the many irrefutable laws of life is that, regardless of what you and anyone else does, everyone else's job is easier than yours.

It's also true that everyone else's life is easier than yours. This is a corollary to the belief that if you fall down a manhole, it's comedy; if I get a paper cut, it's tragedy.

Given that, I would like to think that I -- at least on a basic human level of feeling compassion for all fellow human beings (except, perhaps, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un and University of Texas fans) -- have significant empathy for others. Particularly those in physical circumstances that are limiting.

I would choose to think, for example, I'm not like a former co-worker of mine who said there were too many parking spots for people with physical disabilities because she wanted to park in the front, too. That's the sort of idea that should likely not be expressed and at best should have a thought bubble around it.

However, saying I have compassion and, on the other hand, living in circumstances that might require it are two wildly different things. This I have recently discovered.

It seems the Lovely Mrs. Smith has hurt herself. And the repercussions continue to reverberate.

This all started about a week ago when my lovely bride was tasked with cleaning out her mother's former home in another state in advance of its sale. I was charged with staying out of the way but close enough to be a more likely target for a bear if one should appear.

And yes, we were in a place where there are bears. So, to paraphrase an old joke, my wife didn't have to be faster than the bear; she just had to remember I probably didn't hear it and wasn't paying attention.

Anyway, while my wife is likely good at avoiding bears, she's not so great at stepping on all the stairs, particularly that last one. And as a result, she turned her ankle and incurred a fracture of a sort whose name probably isn't Latin, but might as well be Greek to me.

She also incurred a trip to the emergency room (likely later than she should have gone) as well as all sorts of braces and wraps and ice packs and crutches and a cool little rolling cart kind of a thing that looks like it would be fun if you didn't have to use it because you broke your ankle.

Now I understand all this falls into the "tragedy-comedy" spectrum for a lot of you, except that it has made me appreciate to a much greater degree the many challenges those of us who have physical limitations face. I know, this situation isn't exactly the same as a lifetime of navigating life in a wheelchair or facing other obstacles and I certainly don't mean to co-op what others have to deal with.

But dang, this is hard.

For one thing, those little scooters aren't exactly all-terrain, or even most terrain. And they can get away from you pretty quickly. Ramps that seem OK to those of us walking become either mountains to climb or a Tony Hawk skateboarder ramp, depending on whether you're going up or down. Sometimes, both.

It seems, in general, we are inclined to do the bare minimum for those who require accommodations. Sure, there's a ramp, but it's at the end of the sidewalk and the parking spots around it are too narrow to allow for equipment to be used. Sure, we have bathroom stalls for people with disabilities, but we really just put a bar up there and didn't allow for the fact that the facilities are too short and it's hard to get up with only one leg.

And a lot of this is a two-person job. Which means that second person has to both (a) exist and (b) be there.

One of these days in the not-too-distant future, the Lovely Mrs. Smith will be able to move around at her typical breakneck (or in a least one case, "break-ankle") speed. The scooter will be gone, the wraps and ice bags and equipment put up.

But there are folks out there who will always struggle with those ramps and doors and stalls and all the other things that make a challenging life even more challenging. And we need to keep them in mind. And work to make things at least a little easier for them.

So yeah, I'm pretty sure everyone has it easier than me. But after the last few days, I know that's not the case.

Print Headline: Life takes a twist


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