Sometimes our experiences bring us face to face with our misconceptions.
Here's one example. When you see a man or woman with a cane or walker, what's the first thought that pops into your mind? Do you pity them? Do you begrudge their slow pace? Do you wonder why it's worth their effort to venture out?
I've always had a certain amount of compassion for our senior brothers and sisters and those with disabilities. Maybe the 2003 car crash that broke my neck, causing me to use a walker for a while, contributed to this mindset. But the last few weeks have heightened my awareness and challenged my thinking.
I was blessed to have a hip replacement three weeks ago. I'm doing well, having hurdled a few bumps in the road and being the recipient of many kindnesses along the way. (Thank you to those who prayed, sent cards, brought meals, and helped in a hundred other ways! I couldn't have managed without you.) Even so, being a member of the "cane gang" is not for the faint of heart.
My brother-in-law first coined the family phrase when my great aunts and uncles gathered at my parents' home for Christmas in the 1980s, bringing their canes with them (which doubled as crooks for little-boy shepherds during the annual Christmas play!).
I'm learning that using a cane is not as easy as it looks . . . walking, climbing and descending stairs, getting in and out of bed, taking a shower, navigating the car. Using a walker can be cumbersome. Then there's the grabber, the sock-aid, the long-handled shoe-horn, the nightlights, and the grab bars, to name a few.
I'm also learning that every one of those aids brings more independence and more freedom.
My neighbor inspires me. He doesn't see himself as "confined to a wheelchair." Instead, his chair has allowed him to "take a walk," hold a meaningful job, live independently, and contribute to our community in significant ways.
In a few weeks, I hope to pack up my walker and put away my cane. Yet, I will have more appreciation for those who require the use of aids. Let's not pity them or become impatient, but cheer them on. They have had to come face to face with the disappointment and loss of youth and agility and are finding ways to preserve their independence and keep their stabilizing routines. A smile, a respectful greeting, a listening ear, and perhaps a helping hand will go a long way toward helping them see their value in a hurried culture that seldom has time.
Three cheers for the Cane Gang!