By: Amanda Kasper, Guest Blogger
In May of 2012, I broke my right foot. It was the first time in my life I had to learn how to use crutches, and I STRONGLY disliked it. I spent three weeks in an aircast, three weeks in a plaster cast, and two more weeks in the aircast (including standing up in a college friends wedding). It was summer time, so it was easy to wear dresses and shorts that didn’t interfere with my cast. Carrying a purse turned into carrying a backpack. My parents were around a lot more than they are now, so they were able to get groceries and prescriptions and take me on trips to Target.
Two days before New Years Eve this year, I broke my left foot. The break was quick, deep, and painful. I’ve been in a plaster cast for the last 5 weeks and am looking at anywhere from another 6-12 weeks in a cast and on crutches.
I also happen to live in Chicago.
This means not only has it been below zero temperatures for much of the last five weeks, but we’ve also accumulated feet of snow, leaving both outside and insides slick, slushy, and slippery.
My crutches have slid out from underneath me several times, and I’ve fallen forward – on my knees, my hands, my face. It’s terrifying.
What’s worse, is that people generally just stare. They assume the bystander effect: if they don’t ask you if you’re okay or if you need help, someone else surely will. They don’t. I assure you, as I’ve crawled my way out of stores and back to my car crying, I’ve realized that people are simply naive, but often times it feels like intentional cruelty.
When I go to get groceries or pick up toiletries, I have to use the motorized scooters stores have for the disabled or elderly. Because I am 27, and from the knees up look 100% healthy, I have found other patrons staring, giving me dirty looks, judging me; they assume I’m abusing privileges; they assert that somehow I’m in their way. What they don’t know is how embarrassing it feels to not be able to be independent. How frustrating. How much I wish I could walk through the store or run on the treadmill, instead of maximizing my Netflix subscription.
This experience, brief as it may be, has shown me a lot about society. Things that I maybe didn’t want to see. As THAT GIRL, I’ve started to take the opportunity to educate those people who stare or make rude comments to me or behind my back. I’ve lifted up the leg of my sweat pants to show them my cast, I’ve shared the rather lame story of how I broke my foot, and I’ve nicely reminded them that there is often more to the story than what we can see with our naked eyes. I always end the conversation with “Have a great day” or “Stay warm” because I think it’s important to be kind, even when I haven’t received kindness.
I think as THAT GIRL, it’s our turn, our Call to Action to think about what we process internally when we look, when we stare, when we see things we don’t understand. It’s our job instead of judging silently to make a connection; to ask a question, give
a smile, make an effort to find out the details of someone else’s story. One simple action can change someone’s day; one simple action can change someone’s life… and it can change ours too.
Amanda Brooke is a writer, reader, quote lover, CASA advocate, and non-profit believer; seeking space as a patient advocate, public health guru, lifelong learner, passionate lover, and irreplaceable friend. Amanda tweets at @AKasper513, blogs about life with a Masters Degree, a chronic illness, life, love and following her dreams over at Welcome to Midnight.
Featured image via rapgenius.com