Recently I drove to pick up my daughter from camp. The drive was about two and a half hours one way. On the trip over, I took an exit to use the restroom at a fast food place. When I managed my way in, I was quickly reminded that I was different. I know that, but as a parent, I don’t want to be so different. The bathroom door opened inward and the stall was not large enough for me to fit my chair in and close the door behind me. So I returned to my van and finished the trek to the college campus. I was hoping I would arrive early enough to find an accessible restroom. Instructions had not been given as to what building we would meet, so I arrived early enough to find not only that building but also a restroom.
After using the restroom in one building, I had to investigate how I would enter another building if the regular entrance was not accessible. I had become accustom to this type of planning after living 33 of my 50 years in a wheelchair. Lately, though, I’ve just been feeling “old,” and not too self-assured. The meeting happened to take place in a cramped room and my entrance was different from the other parents. By the time I would venture into the room, kids were seated on the floor and parents lined the sides all around like sardines in a “hot” tin can. Folks stepped aside as best they could while I wheeled in. I felt like I stuck out and was taking the place of perhaps two standing adults.
As the meeting got underway, I tried to smile a lot and disguise the pit in my stomach and the tears welling up in my eyes. Then they asked all the parents to gather up stairs onto the stage. As the moms and dads ran past me, cheering as they raced by (and some even stumbling over me), I knew I was going to lose it! All I could think of was how pitiful I looked and how embarrassed my thirteen-year-old must be …watching all this. The campers led the parents in a “silly” song, complete with motions. I just watched and smiled on the outside while dying on the inside.
On the long drive home, Audrey told me she felt bad for me that I couldn’t get on the stage. I asked her how that made her feel. She said, “At first bad, but then when I saw what the parents had to do, I was glad!” (I think my being on stage doing those movements would have embarrassed her more.) In that same line of thinking, I continued by asking Audrey if it ever emabarrassed her that I was in a wheelchair. Her answer was “No, why should I be? The only thing you can’t do is walk.”
My mind went back to the time when I had just found out I was expecting our first daughter. I was talking with a mother of older children and I confessed that I had a fear that my child would be embarrassed that I was in a wheelchair. The veteran mother answered, “When she becomes a teenager, she will be embarrassed of you, but it will not have anything to do with the wheelchair!”
It really is not about the chair, is it? My thoughts and focus were on myself and how I looked in that chair. This chair is an “attention getter!” Some may awkwardly turn away while others may stare. For those who do look my way, I have an opportunity to be “real,” and not be embarrassed. This chair is a tool the Lord has used to help me mature at least some. The focus should not be on myself or the chair, but instead on the Lord and the difference He makes even in embarrassing situations. “I” should be embarrassed as to how I was thinking!
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of the this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. I Corin. 1:27-29