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TITLE: Throw Those Labels Away
By angela belock

This is an article about how God created the world without labels and yet how the world insists on labels. Labels can be limiting and discouraging. They tend to suggest people in these categories are limited. Here I try to show that I am not limited by my own abilities but by others around me. The target audience is young and old alike. Please feel free to give any suggestions.
In Godís world we have all been made a little different. We were given different personalities, different thoughts and aspirations. God didnít want any one of us to be the same. I think he likes different groups, because he likes thought. He encourages individuality as much as he encourages devotion and love. I have grown to understand that in Godís world there are many great individuals and we should never judge by our limited understanding. We should not pass judgement for the same reason we donít like judgement passed on us.

I am a disabled person. I am what some would officially label a cripple. Even though I dislike those terms that is what people would call me. Does that stop me from having an extremely enjoyable life? Does it prevent me from laughing with my children, or enjoying a bowl of chocolate ice cream oozing in hot fudge? Of course not.

I was born with a congenital hip. I had no ball socket joint. In 1974 hips were a fascinating study. Nobody really knew what they were doing with them. It took my parents awhile to hook up with a doctor who would fix the problem instead of explore the problem.

The doctor at Childrenís hospital in Maryland put me in a full body cast and forced my cartilage to grow around the mis-shaped ball. When I was ten or eleven months old I was put into a brace that spread my legs into a squatting position. The doctor swore I would not be able to walk in this brace. Boy my parents should have known then how stubborn God made me. By the next office visit which was six weeks later I crab walked down the hall to the doctor grinning from ear to ear.

One day, as a little girl, I sat in my living room talking with my dad and I asked him what it was like to walk flat footed. I was curious. I knew that was the way he walked and mom walked but I couldnít walk that way. He looked at me and said, ďWhatís it like to walk on one toe.Ē I remember being puzzled by that question but itís a terrific answer. Nobody can explain it. Whatís normal for me isnít normal for him, but itís still normal.

As a child I learned to ride horses over three foot fences. I learned to care for them, clean there stalls, and to take pride in what we accomplished as a team. I also grew to love them with a passion that I have never had for anything else. Horses donít judge you. They donít expect you to be this way or that way. Horses gave me a freedom to compete against people my own age and succeed. This is all anyone of any age or ability wants to do. They want to succeed.

When I was ten I played soccer. I had a lift of my left shoe to help with balance and mobility. But during one game I scored a goal on the opposing team. It wasnít a fast moving ball but a very slow rolling ball. The goalie was in the wrong position and the ball kind of scuttled itís way in. The coach on the opposing team was furious. He yelled and screamed at the referee. He swore that I had a shoe especially made for kicking. To my advantage the ref just shook his head in disgust and let the game continue.

I was blind to the idiocy of adults when I was a child. But I am no longer a child. My physical body has changed. I have noticed that my leg causes me more problems now. I have pain where I didnít before. I have been forced to give up things that I enjoy because of this pain; but I have never been forced to give up living.

That is a choice. I can cower away from people who stare at my limp or I can face them head on. I choose to face them. Nothing infuriates me more then gawking strangers. Or worse mothers who stop there kids from asking questions about my shoe. I am not an odd diamond, or a piece of strange mold growing on an orange. Neither am I a brave hero, or soldier. I am me. I was given this body and it is who I am.

Let children ask questions. Let them learn about the environment around them Let them know that there is nothing wrong with a person who walks with a limp, or sits in a wheel chair. If we teach them not to ask questions we also teach them to be afraid of whatís different. Thatís the worst fear we can instill in our children.

My four year old loves to walk around in my shoes. She thinks itís funny when she totters over because my left one is three inches higher then my right one. Who cares. Sheís learning that Iím different from daddy. Thatís a good thing. Weíre all different.

People are surrounded by walls of security. As long as I pretend I donít have a problem most people donít notice it. But after I had children I couldnít pretend that my leg didnít exist. At the ripe age of 29 I have had to give up things. My daughter and son canít climb on me like they can their dad. My husband has been forced to take on more of the work load at home because of the pain. My physical capability no longer just affects me it affects my whole family. There is nothing more heart wrenching then watching your spouse feel sorry for you. Or your children feeling confused and sad because they canít just be kids around you.

There are times that Iím scared. Times that I wonder how I am going to cope with the physical. The mental has always been strong. But the physcal has finally slowed me down. I sometimes feel sad when I canít romp around with my kids, my heart breaks when I canít just climb onto the back of a horse and gallivant around. I probably understand getting older better then most people my age because I have been forced to give up things that I donít want to part with.

Do I regret my life? No. Do I wish things could be different. In all honesty I donít know what different is. The question I asked my dad as a little girl is still true. Nobody can tell me what it feels like to be pain free because itís unexplainable. But I am no different, even today then anyone else my age.

This is the physical body that the good Lord gave me. It is what I have. I donít regret my life on this planet no more then anyone else should. Instead I am extremely thankful that I have been given the ability to do all the things that I have ever wanted to do. While my future will be full of surgeries and recoveries. So will everyone elses. I donít believe anyone will walk out of this life whole with no pain. Thatís just not how life is.

The next time someone with a physical or mental challenge is around, I can offer one piece of advice. Smile at them. Donít stare. Help them if they need it but donít feel sorry for them. We can all learn from each other. Disabled, disability, crippled. These are all labels that should be thrown away. These labels do nothing but put up walls between what is acceptable and what is not. In all honesty all any of us want is acceptance, and respect. I know that is all I can ask for from anyone. That is all I truly deserve.
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