I had a thought recently that made me realize what a hypocrite I am. You see, there is a family in my town that I heard about through the grapevine who have taken in multiple foster children with disabilities. I initially thought to myself that they were such wonderful loving people to do something so selfless. And that is absolutely true, they ARE wonderful loving people, but I am so incredibly irritated with myself that this was my first thought.
That may sound strange to some of you so let me explain. I have been at the other end of that well-meaning thought many times. I have had people actually tell me I was a saint to be in a relationship with Dan because of his disability. I am sure there are even more people who have thought this, but not said it. On a good day Dan and I laugh about this. We know it’s meant in the best possible way. We also know that if anyone in this relationship deserves sainthood it’s Dan for putting up with me! I am one big hot mess!!
So, why does that sentiment bother me so much? Because at the root of it is the assumption that it takes a totally selfless person to love someone with a disability and that implies that a disabled person has nothing valuable to contribute to a relationship. Now do you see how offensive that is? Of course, I know that no one who has said that to me means it that way, but that makes it no less offensive.
I can assure you I am in no way a saint. Not one bit. I’m not very selfless. I’m actually pretty spoiled. Let me tell you just how wonderful I really am.
Dan and I met on an online dating site. We had only communicated via text and email before our first date. He told me he had CP and that he walked with a cane. I didn’t know anything about CP at the time and I just assumed that he had a slight limp since he only needed a cane. Then our first date came. As he got out of his car and walked toward me I thought, “Well, that is a lot more than just a little limp!!!” And you know what else I thought? “There is no way he is 5’ 8” like his profile says!!!” Yeah, I am really selfless, aren’t I? I have such deep thoughtful reactions to things.
[On that note the first thing I said when my oldest daughter was born was, “OMG! Look at her feet!!!” They were unusually long and skinny and after 11 hours of labor those were my first words about her. I am never going to be known as profound.]
I really loved that date. Dan was handsome and funny. He seemed kind (and he is!). Still, I had so much self-doubt that I told him later that I didn’t know if I was going to be able to be in a relationship with someone with a disability. It wasn’t his disability that bothered me. It was ME. I thought I was going to do and say stupid stuff all the time and I didn’t want to be an embarrassment to him.
The good news is that it only took me about 24 hours to realize that I really wanted to keep dating him no matter how dumb I might be. The bad news is that I am constantly an embarrassment, but for entirely different reasons. The other good news is that he loves me anyway.
Last night this family I mentioned posted a video of their son with CP trying to stand up on wood floors with new slippers on. He struggled…and giggled…and struggled…and finally he got up. Dan and I chuckled about that determination because it is so much like Dan. It was in this moment I realized my hypocrisy. This is not a family of saints. This is a family with so much love they have a need to share it with children who may not have it otherwise. That is not selfless. It could even been seen as selfish. They want to fill their house with more and more joy. It is probably hard sometimes – may most times; maybe it’s even painful, but they know that the gift those children give to them is worth more than anything else in the world.
That is how I feel about Dan. His love for me is the best thing that has ever happened to me and I am so thankful I didn’t give into my doubts.