Wheeling a Mile In His Shoes

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Late last fall, my family was planning to attend a football game in Berkeley. A friend and fellow fan, hearing of our plans, asked if he might grab a ride with us.

We said, "Sure."
It was only later, when my husband and I were alone, that we spoke about the logistical challenges associated with the request.
Our friend, who is in his mid-40s, was born with cerebral palsy. He's spent his life in a wheelchair. Neither my husband nor I had any experience caring for a person in a wheelchair, let alone transporting them to a football game.
We gave it our best shot, which at times was very off the mark. Our friend could not have been more patient with the awkward car loadings and graceless relocations we put him through as we struggled to find wheelchair friendly restaurants, stadium ramps and bathrooms.
Our 12-year-old daughter witnessed the whole thing, helping out where she could. At the end of the day, she told our friend how glad she was that he'd been able to join us. Back at home, my daughter told me how the experience had opened her eyes to the daily challenges people in wheelchairs face. "Nothing comes easy for them," she said.
The experience affected me, too.  I've become more mindful of the handicap spaces in my midst; taking note of where they are and their general accessibility. I notice how certain restaurants would be impossible for our friend to visit and how a poorly maintained sidewalk might make his safe passage difficult.
Looking back on that day, I see what an act of faith it was for our friend to ask for the ride. He had no idea if and how my family would be able to accommodate his disability. Yet, he took a chance on us - no questions asked, no doubts expressed. With great patience, he let us ride in his shoes and see how life is lived and confined by a wheelchair.
With a perspective, this is Holly Hubbard Preston
Holly Hubbard Preston is a freelance writer living in St. Helena.