Our August cover story — “Criptopia” — is a blend of what is, what is not, and what might be. Very much like everyday life. We complain about what is not and hope for what might be while coping with what is. Last month our cover story generated anger and bitterness because of what is lacking in the medical world — equal health care for people with disabilities. In this column, I hope to take a different approach.
Lately I have realized how much anger and bitterness have built up within me over the years. I know negative emotions can bring on sickness, but after nearly five decades of complications from spinal cord injury and widespread cultural neglect of civil rights for wheelchair users, I feel weighed down by bitterness. But do I have to be? Do we have to continually complain about discrimination and inequality?
In the words of Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season/ A time for every purpose under heaven/ … A time to break down, And a time to build up/… A time to keep silence, And a time to speak …”
We have been silent too long. During the decades since the first stirrings of equality moved within us — thanks to much needed legislation in 1968, 1973, 1990 — we have been patient witnesses. Some of us have protested and chained ourselves to buses, some have filed lawsuits, some have marched on Washington. But most of us have sat in silence as the bitterness builds.
Now we are the forgotten minority.
Think of the force of all that anger. If it stays within us, it only makes us unhappy. If we can find ways to express it — perhaps even in teachable ways — people will take notice. But only if our voices are clear and forceful and our numbers are impossible to deny. And only if we take time to include words of praise — allowing our bitterness to give way to equal portions of gratefulness.
I am angry at an entire nation of medical providers for ignoring the ADA, but in my personal experience I have known doctors whose compassion and dedication have worked miracles. I know of one doctor who begins his day in front of his computer at 4 a.m., sees patients beginning at 7, and works until 6 in the evening. More than once he has dropped by to check on me on his way home, knowing it can be difficult for me to come to his office. His smile alone is enough to dispel discontent.
Earlier today I received a call from a wound care doctor who always goes the extra mile for his patients. We have never met in person, but knowing of my recurring cellulitis problems, he offered to fly me to his home state and put me up in an apartment and do everything he can possibly do to lessen the underlying causes of my infections. Why? He cares.
How many good apples does it take to make Criptopia real?