What’s Wrong with Her?
While in a mall or some kind of store, I have often seen, out of the corner of my eye, a young child staring at me in my wheelchair. Sometimes, I can hear the little voice innocently ask the question to Mom or Dad, “What’s wrong with her?”
Out of the mouths of babes…. Usually, the parent responds with an embarrassed kind of hushed whisper, encouraging the child not to say things like that. But, why not? There is certainly nothing wrong with a child who is filled with wonder and curiosity – in fact, witnessing such innocent perplexity, sometimes amazement, and the pure desire to know is exquisitely beautiful to me. There is no masterpiece created by any artist in the world that is more inspiring and powerful than that little boy, that little girl, with the intently looking eyes and the head cocked, pondering. A child, I may add, that trusts the guarding adult to know and to teach well.
Of course, the adult usually doesn’t know what to say. Sometimes, there will be a simple, patient response and I carry on as if I never heard. It’s when the parent is embarrassed and shushing that I try be there for the child. If I am near enough and I don’t have to turn in order to have the child in my sight, I have sometimes given answer myself. “I can’t walk because my legs are too weak, they’re not strong enough. My body is just made this way,” I say gently, with a little smirk, sharing the weirdness of it with the child, and then a smile to show that is not such a terrible thing.
I admit, though, I haven’t done this as much since my scoliosis has flopped my head over onto my left shoulder. A short answer seems too simplistic and unsatisfactory, now. But, then again, come to think of it, I haven’t heard any small children asking what’s wrong with me in a long time. Perhaps, they are too busy demanding items that they want in the store aisles or too distracted from the world around them by some handheld device. If so, that makes me sad.
It’s partly for these reasons that I recently made a video to describe my disease. (To watch it, click the YouTube video below – and laugh at the freeze-frame image. Yikes!) Mostly, however, I made it for the adults who think the question but, unlike children, never say it out loud. If you have seven minutes or so, I hope you’ll watch it. I could have written it all down in an 1100 word essay (I know how long because I did it) but the answer would just be dry science – not the living reality of a human being. (By the way, this video is my first attempt to go “off script”, so you’ll probably see that I’m a better writer than speaker – or maybe that won’t be your conclusion. I don’t know. Everybody’s different, after all.)
Warning: you may or may not feel bad for me as you watch me breathe and speak. Please don’t feel bad. Well, okay, feel a little sympathy, I would actually appreciate that as my breathing is getting more difficult. But, it’s a beautiful and glorious thing that I am breathing and speaking – so, praise God (yup, praise Him) and give thanks for the gift of life.
© 2017 Christina Chase
Christina Chase View All
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.
You are such a beautiful soul. The Lord is using you to touch a great many people with His love and mercy. You touched my heart so deeply.
My sister contracted polio when she was 12. Her prognosis was dire, and the doctors told my mom that Patti would not live long. She is completely paralyzed, except for her neck and her left hand. I have NEVER considered Patti to be “handicapped”. She is the least handicapped person I have ever known, and she radiates the love and grace of God to all she meets.
She used to experience the same thing you spoke of…with the children and their innocent questions. She loved their honestly, and would love to talk with them and answer their questions. She is now in her 70″s (Praise God) and is still going strong:-)
May God continue to bless you and work through you. You are a blessing to this hurting world.
Love and prayers,
Thank you for sharing the story of your sister! I accidentally published this piece earlier than I intended, since I usually post on Thursdays. But, if I hadn’t made the mistake, then perhaps you would not have read it and we would not have had this conversation. So, it all worked out!
Thank you for reflecting with me upon the lovely honesty of children and for your generous encouragement. Your quick thoughts on “handicapped” have me thinking of a future post to write…
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Hi Christina.I am Deacon Dave’s son, Greg. (We’ve met) I enjoyed this video but sense you value not only replies, but also reaction. So here goes… Although you described ‘what’s wrong with her in great detail, to me the explanation takes a distant backseat to your personality. Your acceptance, love, peacefulness, and gratitude take over, far outweighing the medical explanation. I seldom watch posts to the end, but yours I did. Thank you for sharing. P.S. it’s Dads birthday today.
I was just thinking about Deacon Dave! Lately, I’ve been asking God to bless his intentions just before the Gospel is read at Mass. Deacon often said out loud the prayer before reading, “May the words of the Gospel be always on my mind, on my lips, and in my heart.”
And, yes, I know you and I thank you for your ongoing support and encouragement! Much appreciation for your reflections here. Peace and blessings to you and your family.
Great story and so true. I love how you gave the perspective of how you feel and not how others may think you feel. (The road is paved with good intentions). We love you and are so appreciative of your story and education.
Stephanie (Ma tante Ghislaine’s daughter)
Thank you, Stephanie! So glad to have you here reflecting with me. My best to you and your boys!
Never when I think of you or see you do I think handicapped or disabled. I think of how fun you are, how caring, compassionate generous with your ears oh your poor ears but you are never defined by your physical challenges
Think you, Tammy! I’m so glad that you have gotten to know me and that I have gotten to know you and that we are friends in this wonderful and wacky thing that we call life. You’ve taught me so much – my ears are grateful!