26 October 2010
Day 213: It's Good to be Alive
I have had the privilege in my life to know and be friends with some pretty amazing people. One such person is a paraplegic, who I will refer to as JS, because privacy and I haven't asked if I could use her name. I met JS at Antioch College and was blown away by her. Not only is she extremely smart and personable (if somewhat shy), but she had to deal with far more Antioch bullshit than I think any five people combined.
Because Antioch is sadly not set up for people with mobility issues. The sidewalks are utter crap and consist mostly of broken and breaking asphalt, there was only one dormitory that was wheelchair accessible, and she had to use the freight elevator just to get in the library. Despite all this she seemed to have no regrets about attending Antioch and was more than willing to educate about her condition.
I happened to have the utter joy of being able to have her as a neighbor for a couple of terms and I loved it. We would occasionally sit together in the hallway working on projects together. I was able to ask her questions about appropriate behavior, particularly concerning the issue of how much help is "too much" help. I tried to always ask if she needed or wanted help rather than automatically assuming she needed it. As someone who had limited mobility she needed to keep active in order to maintain the amount of mobility she had. This included using a manual chair instead of an electric. It meant she needed assitance getting across campus, but had the benefit of forcing her to use her arm muscles.
The more I've come to know JS, the more personal my questions have been. I have never expected answers, but I have appreciated JS's openness and willingness to answer more often than not. JS also wrote a weekly column for the Antioch Record and broached subjects and questions that it wouldn't even occur to me to ask. All this talk makes it sound like she is A Person in a Wheelchair, but she is so much more than that. Even though she recognizes and incorporates the wheelchair as a part of who and what she is, she in no way lets it limit her and what she can do (within reason).
My review can be found on Goodreads.