Although I struggle with the limitations caused by cerebral palsy, I usually try to be pretty positive. But last fall during a Women’s Bible Study, when the leader asked me how I was, I shocked myself. I bluntly told them, “I’m tired and worried. The legislature wants to reduce the budget that pays for the support I need to be able to live by myself. I’m worried. Frankly, if the Body of Christ would operate the way it should, then the state wouldn’t need to pay for many of the services they do.” I was a bit nervous about how they’d respond until they said, “We understand and we’ll help you.”
A few weeks later, Team Lyla was formed. Each woman on the team committed herself to help me once a month by either bringing meals or helping me in other ways.
In December, my friend Jan decorated my quad-cane like a red and white candy cane, and I called it Stan. I told everyone it (or he) was my date for all my Holiday activities. After Jan decorated in January it looked pretty feminine, so I renamed it Stella.
Stella never says a word, but she sure opens a lot of conversations. One of them happened a little over a week ago.
On my return flight, I had to change planes in Seattle in order to fly to Portland. After I got into the terminal I used the restroom and meandered throughout some of the stores while I waited for my next flight.
Just before I boarded the plane in Seattle, I noticed Stella was missing. I wanted to go find it, but my attendant from Alaska Airline said, “I need to get you on the plane. Wait here a minute.” She came back with another support person and I told her, “I think I left my cane in the last stall on the left in the bathroom. It is decorated with turquoises ribbon and felt flowers.” I breathed a sigh of relief when the woman who retrieved my cane walked up behind me before I got on the plane and said, “I bet this is yours.”
Like many other people, my stewardess said, “I like the way your cane is decorated.”
“Thanks. A friend at church does it for me.” As the stewardess helped me get situated in my seat she said, “I had to use a cane for a while and I decorated mine too.”
When she was finished getting people their snacks she sat down in the seat across the aisle from me. I asked, “Why did you use a cane?”
“I was on my way to work and as I crossed the street a truck hit me and seven others. One of them died. It took me over a year to recover.”
As I watched her walk up and down the plane I assumed she was fully recovered. Almost as an afterthought I asked her if she was okay now. I cringed when she responded, “I live in chronic pain and I’ll need to have my knees replaced.”
Months before, when I told my friends how frustrated I was, because very few people had ever asked if I needed help, I realized it was because they assumed I need didn’t any. When the stewardess told me her story, it occurred to me how easy it is for us to make false assumptions about the people with whom we come in contact. But, we’re better off when we get a glimpse into their lives.