The other day at work, a co-worker stopped me.
“You walk like I do.” He said.
I looked at him cautiously. “And what way is that?” I asked.
“You’re pigeon toed.” He said. “You must be rough on your shoes.”
“I’m not pigeon toed.” I said. “I have Cerebral Palsy.”
He looked at me in shock for a few seconds and opened and closed his mouth like a fish. “I’m sorry!” he said. “I didn’t know, I had no idea!”
I shrugged. “It’s no biggie.” I told him. “You didn’t know.”
“You don’t look like your disabled.”
“It’s spastic.” I told him.
At his blank look, I explained that there were three different types of Cerebral Palsy, that I had Spastic Cerebral Palsy and that it affected my back and leg muscles. I told him about the spasms, about not being able to sit in one position for too long, about the pain.
“You poor, poor man.” He said.
“I didn’t tell you so I could have your pity.” I said. “I told you so that you would know.”
“But what a hard life you have had.” He said.
“It’s been hard yes,” I told him. “But I think having a disability has made me a better person.”
“Oh, I don’t think so.” He said. “You poor, poor man.”
No matter what I told my co-worker, he continued to eye me with pity. I was reminded once more why I am usually quiet about what rests inside of me. But then reprimanded myself. If I don’t tell people, they won’t know.
Despite my best efforts, my co-worker couldn’t see how living with Cerebral Palsy could be a blessing. He couldn’t see how it’s made me a stronger person, how I’ve had to fight for, and earn, whatever I wanted.
As I walked away, I found myself frustrated with his lack of understanding. But then I told myself that understanding, like living with Cerebral Palsy, has to come one step at a time.