As someone with a physical disability, what I long for most is for people to see my value. We all want to be appreciated for who we are, not underestimated based on superficial judgments.
One of the greatest gifts is to value a person as they are. Because no matter our circumstances or differences, we all have something wonderful to offer. My wife, family and friends do this – they see me as a loving husband, dad, friend, movie buff, and sports fan.
But too often, strangers become uncomfortable around me. Some avoid me. Others stare awkwardly. They’ve assumed my wife is a nurse, or that my kids are siblings. This hurts, as they dismiss me without knowing me.
I believe this stems from lack of experience with someone like me. It’s difficult for them to see past my disability. Feeling awkward is understandable, but to truly see people, we must lead with curiosity.
I’ll never forget my first plane trip with my wife. The flight attendant asked her, “Would he like a drink?” My wife responded, “Why don’t you ask him yourself? Don’t assume someone can’t speak for themselves because they have a disability.”
The attendant tried explaining herself, but my wife wanted to make a point to never make assumptions. She learned a lesson! My wife won’t hesitate to speak up when she feels there’s been injustice.
The best way to show value is to seek to know someone before judging. Valuing people goes deeper than kindness.