I have been feeling a bit "woe is me". I wish I could pick a mood, a state of being, and just be that way. But my moods fluctuate between "I am going to be the person who beats ALS" to "Life is over". Today I am somewhere near "I am redefining myself with the abilities I have now".
In a very awful "woe is me" moment, in between texting a few friends, crying very hard, and wiping my snotty nose on my sleeve because I couldn't get to the tissues, I posted my feelings to one of my online support groups. This group happens to be all women. In short, I posted about feeling sad, like I am losing myself, and it just sucks. Many women responded - these women are wise and can empathize. Part of one woman's response was this:
I was reminded maybe the lessons that are learned from this is not for us but for others.
I have been sitting on these words for almost two days. There are many lessons one can learn for themselves from having and living with and handling a disease like ALS on a day to day basis. And I am learning them. Patience with myself. Appreciating the small moments. Always taking advantage of opportunities to tell others you love them. Just to name a few. I am learning these lessons hard and fast. But what if my support group comrade is right. Maybe the lessons that are learned from me living with ALS are not for me at all, but for the people around me. Family. Friends. Strangers, even. This would surely fall into my philosophy that this disease is one HUGE teachable moment.
So, I began breaking this down into smaller sections. Let's take strangers, for example. When I am out and about I come across strangers all the time. We all do. Last night, after running an errand with Adam, we stopped for a bite to eat (surprise, surprise). It was raining, hailing, and sleeting. Adam was pushing the wheelchair, and I was holding the big black umbrella the best I could over the two of us. We were a sight, I am sure! As we made our way up to the first door, a man came running up to the second door from inside the restaurant to open it for us. At first I thought he worked there. He didn't. And he wasn't even leaving. He was just a guy, watching us struggle, wanting to help. When we made our way in, I noticed he moseyed on back to his table as well. What a cool guy!
The restaurant was pretty empty. But I thought about what if there was a child sitting in the restaurant watching that interchange. What a lesson they would have learned from this teacher - this kind-hearted gentleman - and me, his co-teacher!
The lesson plan for this interaction might go something like this:
Objective: SWBAT (students will be able to) have compassion for the disabled by helping them without fear.
To: Teacher goes completely out of his way to help a wheelchair bound person and their caregiver get in out of the rain, Student observes how to do this,
With: Teacher with the student run to help a wheelchair bound person who is struggling with a heavy retail door.
By: Student (by themselves) helps a wheelchair bound person open a public bathroom door.
My Aunt Gail contracted polio as a young child. She had been in a leg brace throughout her childhood and as a young adult. Now she uses a wheelchair to get around. I remember her telling me that she always encouraged children to look at her and ask questions. She wanted to be someone who was approachable, not someone that kids would be afraid of. She would come one day a year to my classroom, and read my first graders a book, and answer questions about her wheelchair, or why she was in it. It was a great lesson. I think about Aunt Gail's outlook on inquiry all the time when I am out and about.