I’ve been thinking about the connection between disability and friendship.
What makes a friend? What do I look for in a friendship? What do I like about my friends?
I look for people who like to think “outside the box” and challenge the status quo. Why do things the way they’ve always been done, just because they’ve always been done that way? People who want to make the world a better place excite me.
I enjoy people who make music. Musicians are fun people who know how to have a good time.
I enjoy watching sports and talking about sports with friends. Go Bears!
I enjoy exploring nature with friends – nothing like a hike in the woods on a fall day.
I look for people with a positive life attitude – a positive, realistic view of the world. Not sappy or phony – but a “taking the good with the bad” attitude and honestly realizing that there is so much good.
I look for people who like to learn and grow; people who are humble enough to recognize that they don’t know all the answers and who like to have challenging conversations.
I enjoy people who like to play. A game of poker with my buddies makes a fun Friday evening. And, I finally have a fantasy football team in first place!
I look for people who work hard to fulfill their passion.
Notice that “disability” is not on my list. Some of my friends have disabilities, some don't. It's not a factor.
But much of society has it on their list.
Some people, both peers and adults, have avoided me because of my “outside” – perhaps my drooling, being in a wheelchair, limited use of my hands. Others, perhaps deluding themselves into thinking they were “open-minded”, talked down to me or were my “friend” only when convenient for them.
A visible disability presents superficial “differences”. But, it’s the inside qualities that matter in real friendships. We can share so much in common with each other, but we need to get to know what’s on the inside to find out. Seeing a person simply as his or her disability is a roadblock to a real relationship, and, sadly, both people end up missing out.