A few years ago, my husband got a parking ticket because his truck was blocking the sidewalk out in front of our house. We thought it was so ridiculous that the cops had nothing better to do than give tickets over something so “trivial.”
Well, fast forward, and I feel differently now. I’m glad we got that ticket that day. And to explain why, let me tell you about my day today:
It’s a beautiful summer morning, and the kids and I are anxious to get outside. It’s an exhausting ordeal for me to go back and forth through the house changing/throwing away diapers, grabbing clothes, socks, and shoes, making sure everyone is adequately fed, and just getting everyone (including myself) ready to head out the door.
We can’t go play in the back yard because I used all my energy getting ready, and my wheelchair can’t maneuver through the grass. So, thankful for sidewalks, I tell the kids we’re going for a walk around the block to enjoy the sunshine! A couple houses down, I sigh at how pointless it was for me to put on makeup today, because we’re now facing standing sprinklers that cover the whole sidewalk. So, I prep Gordon on my lap, protect Carson’s stuffed animal under my arm, and Carson takes position behind me, ready to push as fast as he can. Together we embark across the little journey as fast as we all can go, coming out the other end sufficiently sprinklered in the face. But hey, we made it! Keep those spirits up!
We turn the corner and there is mud on the path. No big deal, pretty easy to wheel through. But as we come out the other side, I wheel forward and my hand gets caked with mud that’s stuck to my wheel. I try to brush it off but really just end up getting mud everywhere else, including on little Gordon every time I need to adjust him on my lap. A little more frustrated, we continue on, wet-faced and muddy-hands.
Now the thing that many don’t think about with people in wheelchairs is that when there’s an obstacle in the way of the sidewalk, we can’t just go around it. We have to back track until there’s a clear path or a driveway that leads to the road. Then we have to stay on the road until there’s a clear path back onto the sidewalk, on the other side of said obstacle. I have two small children and a very strict rule that they don’t go in the road, because I’m not fast enough to chase them. Well, what are we gonna do when there are giant trucks, or rocks, or piles of dirt blocking the way?
We couldn’t just quickly cross the street to the sidewalk on the other side of the road, because there were obstacles there too. Obstacles everywhere. So, I had to keep both of my babies right close to me, explain to my 2 year old why we had to be in the road instead of safely on the sidewalk, stop and hold them tight every time a car passed, and wheel along the rocky, uneven road for literally half of the walk around the block. Every time we wanted to get back on the sidewalk, we saw another obstacle ahead that we wouldn’t be able to get around, so we had to stay on the road.
Finally, we’re back to our street and there’s a clear sidewalk for the rest of the way home. Yay! Gordon is restless and Carson is excited to not have to hold on to my chair anymore. Carson runs ahead and trips and falls flat on his face. I get down to comfort him, and Gordon bolts the other direction. Here’s a tip, 13-month-old babies aren’t very good at listening when you ask them not to run off. So, I’m sitting in my neighbors lawn with one screaming toddler in my lap and another toddler completely out of reach, and I just start to cry. At this point I’m utterly exhausted, it’s hot, and it’s been the worst outing ever. Carson runs after Gordon to try and stop him while I get back into my chair to follow.
Naturally, the two begin to fight and they both end up crying. So I pick them both up and try to hold the screaming, struggling toddlers in my lap. We’re 3 houses away from home and I have no idea how to get there. I look desperately around for a neighbor to help push me, but all I see are a few very young children playing in their yards. So (thankful beyond words that I can use my feet and that there’s no more sidewalk blocks), I slowly propel us home. Gordon is screaming, Carson is screaming, I’m clinging to their shirts to keep them from falling off my lap, and I’m just sobbing, embarrassed and exhausted, slowly inching towards home.
We made it up the ramp and into the house and we all crumbled on the kitchen floor. I sat in the corner and held my babies and we all just cried and cried.
It’s now a couple hours later and we’re all lying on the couch, my kiddos asleep next to me, soothed by the peaceful hum of the air conditioning.
I’m usually good at staying positive, because things could always be worse and I really am very blessed in my life. But today is a cry-it-out-and-eat-chocolate kind of day. It was rough. And I wasn’t upset at anyone, because I know blocking the sidewalk is something so trivial that people honestly just don’t think twice about it.
Something I’ve learned recently is that people care about the issues that have directly affected their lives. We’re not generally motivated to go through the effort to make change happen unless it’s personal. It really makes logical sense. We contribute to causes that matter to us. I’d never realized just how much physical disabilities affect people’s every day lives. And I’m not even fully confined to my wheelchair, so I imagine things are infinitely harder for those who can’t use their legs at all. I feel for these people- those who suffer from chronic pain and/or physical disabilities- in a way that I never could have felt for them before. And that’s motivating.
So, I’m writing this post, because I care. I was at first embarrassed to write it down; I prefer to share uplifting and motivating thoughts instead of sob stories. But, this matters. Stories like mine today matter. I’m not the only person who has to get sprayed in the face and mud on her hands and forced to back track and go on uneven, unsafe roads because it’s literally the only option… just for trying to get a little fresh air or exercise. I’m not the only person who’s felt frustrated and alone, struggling to do the simple every day tasks that others easily take for granted. People face these challenges every single day. So, I’m sharing this story because WE CAN DO BETTER. Let’s make a change. This is such a simple, easy thing, but it will make a world of difference for people like me.
Let’s work together to keep the sidewalks clear!
It’s a small change that makes a huge difference. We can make that difference, right? Let’s do it. If you’re willing to put in just a little extra effort, please share this post. Help other people to realize the small and simple ways they can help people, by keeping sidewalks accessible. Let’s make life a little more lovely for others, one small gesture at a time.