Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

July 5, 2014

Adapted in TC: Life lessons learned from the hand we're dealt

"You people are all so Zen-like,” Ben said, sipping his coffee in the diner where we were having breakfast.

“You people?” I asked.

“People with disabilities, challenges,” he said.

“Do you think so?” I asked.

“Well, I think most people would want to end their lives if they had to use a wheelchair, were blind, deaf or had experienced a terrible accident or illness. If under those circumstances they decide to live, and I mean thrive not just survive, then I think they’ve evolved,” he said.

“Really?” I asked. “Don’t you think everyone just does the best they can and that human beings are hard-wired to want to live?”

“Maybe. But that’s not me or most people. I get upset over little things like when people cut me off on the road or slight me in some way. Everything that happens to me is of the same importance. People with disabilities that I’ve met, have their priorities straight and keep things in perspective. They’re more patient. Remember the stranger at the mall who put you back into your car after you’d just gotten out into your wheelchair? I would have burst a blood vessel over that guy! What about when you tipped over backwards in your flower garden, driving your wheelchair handles into the dirt. You stayed tilted in the air for an hour! Or the times when you’ve been stuck in a bathroom stall. I mean literally stuck. I’d just be angry and frustrated all the time,” he said.

“What else could I do but laugh? I wasn’t injured,” I said.

“I always question the fairness of why difficult things happen to me. Anything distressing. Not you or people like you. Even when you’ve experienced great pain. I’ve heard you say”why shouldn’t things happen to me? What makes me so special?” he added.

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