The gift of disability wasn’t on my Christmas list. But in early October, when I tripped and broke the fifth metatarsal on my right foot, I discovered God had moved temporary disability to the top of His list for me. The gift included 1 set of crutches, 1 wheelchair, 1 walker, 1 surgery, 1 pin, 2 boots, 4 x-rays, 6 doctor appointments, 8 weeks of bearing no weight on the injured foot followed by 4 weeks of partial weight-bearing, and 12 weeks of being unable to drive.
I reluctantly unwrapped this gift of disability during the three excruciatingly slow months it took for my 61-year-old bone to heal. Perhaps God orchestrated this slow march to wellness because He knew it would take that long for me to learn these ten hidden lessons He tucked in with the gift.
10. Most handicapped bathrooms aren’t fully accessible. Doors are often too heavy to open and impossible to shut, stalls aren’t big enough, grab bars are too far away, sinks and soap can’t be reached, and hand dryers can only be accessed by wheeling to them wet-handed.
9. Strangers can be surprisingly kind. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have held open doors, shut bathroom stalls, braked so I could cross the street, and asked what else they could do. The really encouraging news is that many of the Good Samaritans were young people. As in teenagers or young kids.
8. Online retailers make shopping accessible to people with many disabilities. Christmas shopping would have been a bust without online shopping. During our two forays into stores, my husband and I discovered that Christmas displays and extra merchandise make many aisles inaccessible for people in wheelchairs. Thanks to free shipping at many online sites, our loved ones found our gifts under their Christmas trees on December 25.
7. My father exhibited astounding grace and dignity during his 38 years in a wheelchair. Each time an obstacle made my temporary disability difficult, I thought of how my father handled his nearly four-decade battle with multiple sclerosis. When tempted to self-pity or complaint, I chose–with occasional lapses–to honor his example by focusing on what I could do instead of what I couldn’t. Thank you, Dad.
6. Children have worries, too. We have three grandchildren who voiced their worries during my weeks of healing. “Why didn’t the doctor kiss your foot and make it all better?” one asked. “Will you ever walk again?” asked another. “Does your foot hurt inside the boot?” wondered the third. I remembered how I concealed my young worries about Dad’s illness, and it made me grateful that these children voiced their fears. I answered their questions completely, invited them to assist in putting on my boot, and took them for wheelchair rides.
Check back on Friday for part 2 of this blog post.
Jolene Philo grew up with a disabled father and raised a child with special needs. She has also welcomed kids with special needs into her elementary classroom for 25 years. She is the author of several books about special needs parenting, caregiving, and special needs ministry. She blogs at www.DifferentDream.com and speaks around the country about special needs parenting and inclusion ministry. Jolene and her husband live in Iowa, are parents to two adult children, and are known as Grammy Jo and Papoo to their three adorable grandchildren. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.