learning the golden rule

Sep 11, 2013

These injuries have given me an opportunity to see human nature up close and personal. I see the good and the bad, the caring and the selfish, the supportive and the flippant parts of people every day…including in myself.

I have been deeply loved and tenderly cared for in ways that would have been incomprehensible to me two years ago. Friends, family, and complete strangers have filled my heart with their honest concern, long hours of service, and patience with my injuries. I have been so, so blessed. I have people who pray for me on a daily basis. I have people who have dropped everything in their life to help me. I have people who keep cheering me on and who are doing everything they can to help me push those giving-up feelings out of my heart. They speak words of encouragement. They show compassion. They help me feel capable while filling in all the gaps of things I can’t do. They remind me of who I am on the inside and what my body used to be before this injury. They are angels and I am so, so grateful for their hands and hearts that have lifted me through this journey.

And then there are others who aren’t kind and helpful. People who stand around and watch me haul a big, awkward box of food across the parking lot at Sam’s with my small children skipping ahead and my broken foot dragging behind (yes, a man who looked fit and healthy did just that today, who knows, maybe he suffers from angina). People who are irritated when I say I can’t do something because it will hurt my body. People who roll their eyes when I talk to them. People who ask how I am and walk away long before I can respond. People who treat me like I am invisible when I am in my chair (yes, people treat me differently now…they act like they can’t see me…they run into my chair and don’t even seem to notice…they don’t make eye contact with me…I have become one of those “handicapped” people that “real” people don’t have time for). People who lecture me. People who have no patience for the long nature of these injuries…they want it fixed TODAY and don’t understand why I am not all better yet. People who get frustrated by how slowly I walk or how long it takes me to bag up my groceries at the store – to them I have lost personhood and am simply an inconvenience. People who don’t talk to me (a few months ago I attended church and not a single soul spoke to me through the whole women’s meeting even though I was lying on the floor in plain view and hadn’t been there in weeks). People who are too busy to care.

Sometimes when I encounter people like this I am able to have compassion for them because I know they just don’t understand how they are treating me. Sometimes I am able to laugh about it.

Tonight I am crying about it. I don’t know why I am crying, I just am. I tried to talk to Richard about my disappointment with the man at Sam’s Club today, but I can’t explain it, not really. I feel this sadness that people can treat one another so casually, without connection. I realize that I have treated others casually and even callously and it breaks my heart. Now I know what it feels like to be forgotten, discarded, and demeaned and I know I have treated others in that same way.

There are many good things that have come out of these injuries. I hope one of those good things is that I have learned and grown in my ability to let my heart connect with others, to be part of building others up. I don’t want to be one of those people who sees people as inconveniences or invisibles or incapables. I want to lift and love.

This quote by my favorite author reminds me of who each of us is and how I should see others…as children of God. It is a lesson I want to stop needing to relearn and instead always remember to live…and then I want to stop needing to remember because I have been transformed so thoroughly that it is who I am.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest, most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilites, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

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  1. Mom

    Oh, shoot! I know I am one of those people. I am sorry! But thank you for opening my eyes. This is very heartfelt!

    • tracy

      Oh mama, you are a huge cheerleader for me. Thank you for being a voice of love and encouragement. I love you.

  2. Anne

    But, wait. I have done all those things. Rolled my eyes, gotten frustrated, sighed loudly, gotten irritated and lost patience. I lecture and I DO want it fixed TODAY! True, I am your cheerleader. YAY HIP HORAH! But I am all those things too. I guess because I just don’t understand how this could possibly be happening to YOU. I don’t understand how someone who has been completely active, completely competitive, the one who has to be first, who has to win, can be hurt and not be able to just will your body to get better. Or how someone who has been faithful and honorable in the gospel of Jesus Christ and taught your children from the moment they could sit up to honor the Lord, how you can not just pray it away. And then I become all those words up there. LOVE YOU!!!!

  3. Kerry

    Last year I had an experience in Winco with a lady in a wheel chair and her son. It still makes my heart ache to remember it. 3 of my kids had wanted to stay in the car because they were reading or something. So I let them with the car locked and running. But when I got into the store I started to feel panicky about it. My solution was to shop really fast, and I was being rude without realizing it. This lady in a wheelchair said something to me I didn’t quite hear, but I thought she was excusing herself for being in my way for a second. I oh so graciously (in my mind) told her she was fine. Then her son, without looking at me as he walked by, said “you are pretty rude.” I thought I was missing some humor, as I often do, so I laughed to fulfill social expectations, before I realized he was serious. I was a little shaken, because no one has ever called me rude before. My first inclination was irritation, and a “what’s wrong with them,” attitude. But I knew that was wrong, so I chased them down (which seemed to alarm them; maybe they expected anger) and apologized and then asked them what I did wrong. Apparently, in my hurry, I was blocking her in with the refrigerator doors. I still don’t understand exactly. She apologized for being “a grumpy old lady.” So I think we both parted with better understanding for others. I certainly try to show more consideration now. But it still makes me sad that I’ve probably been inconsiderate to a lot of people who haven’t told me, and probably still am. I kinda wish I had done more with that woman and become her friend, instead of just apologizing. I’m glad she rebuked me. I’ve learned more from that than all the compliments and praise I’ve received. Thank you for the further reminder and teaching that if we don’t have charity, all our other gifts and talents are nothing.

  4. Liz

    I hope all the ladies in your church read this………..sometimes though people don’t want to be seen as staring at the person in the wheelchair so they seem to completely ignore the person. Is there anyway you can put a chaise lounge in there just for you? Bless you Tracy, it will be o.k.

  5. Debbie

    Thank you for sharing that quote. What an awe inspiring way to view people! Thank you for the way you stretch my brain, and help me see other views, perspectives, and for helping me become more. So if it makes any difference, your studies, insights and trials have made a difference in my life. Hugs, Debbie