I have had a lot of people say very ignorant things to me throughout my life. Some of those things have been addressed in previous blog posts. Sometimes, I think it is just a matter of people not knowing exactly what to say. Other times I think it may be a case where people are truly ignorant.
I work with the public in the job that I do. Often people ask me what is “wrong with me” when they see my crutches. It is those times when I feel like I could give them a laundry list of things that are “wrong with me.” For instance, I am short, slightly balding, and I could stand to lose several pounds. However, I usually just explain to them that I was born with spina bifida, which has led to some paralysis in my lower extremities. That usually is enough to satisfy the curiosity seekers.
In addition to the questions and comments that I get about my physical disability, I often hear other remarks that are ignorant. For instance, I spoke to a lady the other day over the phone who was questioning some information she received from another person in our agency.
The information she received was incorrect. When I told her this, she responded, “Well, he sounded like a black gentleman who was new, so I wasn’t sure I could trust him.” I was able to maintain my composure, however, I just wanted to say, “What does anyone’s skin color have to do with their intelligence, or whether or not you should trust them?” I also wanted to tell her just how ignorant she sounded.
We should all treat others the way we would like to be treated. I generally don’t mind when people ask me about my disability. I just feel doing it in a more tactful way would be nice. It is okay for people to be curious. However, it is not okay for people to be rude.
Likewise, I understand we all grew up differently. Our experiences often help shape us into the people we become. You may have different ideas and opinions than I do. This is perfectly okay. However, that doesn’t mean we should not be civil to one another.
It does not hurt to stop and think before speaking. There is a quote that is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln which says, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” Words can either be a blessing to someone or they can be hurtful. Choose your words carefully so that they might be a blessing.