My husband Steve and I were driving home after sharing a meal with my mother and his parents when I thought to myself, what would life be like for a person who is blind? I closed my eyes.
As we drove along, I felt the flashing lights on my face and could tell the difference between red and green. Red was soft and warm where as green felt bright and penetrated the closed lids of my eyes.
I felt the vibrations of the van as I rocked side to side in my wheelchair, safely secured by my tie downs. I could hear the road. I have ridden the familiar streets a thousand times, but with my eyes closed I lost track and the ride seemed unending.
Why did I do this? Number one, I was curious. Number two, I think that we need to be compassionate to others. Put yourself in other people's shoes. Have you ever felt jealous of someone who seems to have a "perfect life?" No one has a perfect life and what goes around, comes around. But don't you want to be there when it goes around for some people?
Love is essential. We must love ourselves and others, warts and all. I was recently at a program on spiritual healing. As the session began, I was sitting next to a woman with five large silver bracelets that clanged with her every move as she loudly whispered to me, "Have you ever been to something like this before?" I shushed her and tried to concentrate on the activities at hand. But she had ruined my buzz. It's hard to love another human being when they frustrate you.
Compassion isn't always easy but is necessary. So how can we be compassionate in our response to what happened on September 11th? "Events like this are a way of testing our beliefs," according to Gary Zukav on Oprah a few weeks ago. I always hated tests in school! (Especially if I didn't study.) Life is a series of tests everyday. If it wasn't we would all look alike, have no ailments and it would be a mundane existence.
So when people piss you off, take a deep breath and try and understand where they are coming from. I'm not encouraging you to be a doormat but look beyond what is in front of you. Think about the big picture. Do you have to drive with a road rage personality? If you don't have what you feel you deserve, do you blame yourself or others? Are you willing to do what it takes to create a positive environment or do you keep old habits that keep you down?
Whether you believe that this life is our only go around or you feel there is more, we should treat ourselves and others with love and understanding. We are here to learn from life's lessons.
--Katie Rodriguez Banister December 2001 "Movin' On!" newsletter; St. John's Mercy Rehabilitation Center, St. Louis Missouri
Katie Rodriguez Banister works with audiences to embrace diversity
through motivational speaking and disability education.