It’s Friday again and as I look forward to this weekend I can’t help but be amazed at how fast the time flies. Just yesterday, I was thinking about this while having dinner with my father. He’s getting older as much as we both hate to admit it and it shows- in the little things such as the wrinkles of his hands and his “memory lapses”. It scares me to think of a future without my parents because it’s all I’ve ever known. I know I will have people that take care of me and support me, but nothing can ever take the place of your parental support. That brings me to the topic of this post; as promised, it is a continuation of Patrick Henry’s book, “I Am Potential: Eight Lessons to Living, Loving, and Reaching Your Dreams.” Ironically enough, the next lesson is this: Be the You Your Mother Would Be Proud of.
What does it mean to be different? Growing up, Patrick Henry liked to feel things with his hands. He would notice small differences of how people’s eyes would flutter when he touched them; unlike his own, which were hard and didn’t move. His family treated him like everyone else, so Patrick just assumed everyone had to be carried around or fed. Eventually though, he began to wonder how his parents got from place to place.
“They must be able to do something I can’t,” he thought. From then on, he was even more determined to do everything to be “less” different and try to walk on his own. But to no avail, Patrick still got a wheelchair at the age of four. “Why do I need a wheelchair?” Patrick would often ask. His parents explained that God made him different, using that example of a box where God gives out different abilities to different people when they were born. He accepted this explanation.
For many people, acceptance of a disability can lead to many misunderstandings among the nondisabled community. After all, wouldn’t we love to be able to walk or see? Of course we would. But here’s the difference: “Some might think I don’t care or that I’m hiding from reality,” Patrick says, “I do care- very much. If God said to me, ‘Patrick Henry, would you like to start walking today?’I’d immediately say yes. I believe most people in a wheelchair would love to be independent of their chair and live life completely on their own.. but nothing is accomplished by dwelling on what you can’t do ! So you have to shrink its importance down in your mind ..”
After a while, his grandparents became increasingly concerned that Patrick didn’t know how to socialize with kids his own age. As a result, his parents tried getting him into daycare. Many of the centers wouldn’t take him because of his disability.
That is, until his parents found the Wesley Community House. Like most parents, their first days proved difficult for parents and son alike. Eventually, though, some kids warmed up to Patrick listening as he played music on the electric keyboard. One day as he was playing, Patrick Henry was asked, “why are you blind?”
He replied he didn’t.
His friend continued, “Because you were born that way.”
This brings up such an important point.. Having a disability, many of us don’t know what life would be like without one. We have nothing to compare it to.. Just as, Patrick is often asked “What do you see?” He can’t tell you. As a result, he depends on his other senses such as touch and smell to create mental models of what he thinks something they look like.
When Patrick entered public school, his disability was a attention- grabber from the start; everyone wanted to push his wheelchair or read to him at story time. As time progressed, though,, he realized the source and felt differently.
“.. I didn’t want to be seen as so different,” he says.
When he was mainstreamed, he had to have personal assistants. Patrick participated in every activity he could in the effort to be accepted by his peers. And he was. Despite all this, one quote stands out the most for me.. Patrick says, “but no matter what you do and however much people welcome you among them, the truth is, if you are special and you can never be exactly like everyone else..”
Eventually, he accepted this as well and started looking at his music talent in a different way. “This [my music] allowed me to be recognized for a different kind of special! The kind I wanted to be. Once I go it, I could let the other feelings go,”