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Inclusion. The blog for the Center for Disability Studies.

Don’t feel sorry for me

By David Lynch

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“I really feel sorry for you that you have a disability and have to use a wheelchair.”

The comment came from a man I’d just met in the community.

I was surprised to hear it because I’d just got done explaining my story to him in a very positive light.

He had wanted to know how I live with my disability. When I receive a question like this from someone, I provide an overview of my situation, as I proceeded to do with him. I tell the story this way. I was born a healthy child, and at age six, I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.

As time went on I moved slower than the other kids, lost the ability to climb steps, and in my early 20s started using a scooter to go long distances. By the time I turned 25, I began utilizing a motorized chair on a full-time basis.

At this point in my overview, I provide insight about muscular dystrophy; that it is a progressive disease in which my motor, cardiac, and pulmonary functions will continue to decrease over time. But, I also explain that muscular dystrophy has not slowed me down in living a full and active life.

Examples? I’ve traveled with family to many places, I’ve been employed at financial institutions in the community for many years, I’ve graduated from college, I’ve served as a deacon in my church, and recently I returned to school with scholarship money.

When I finish telling my story, I remind the listener that I have a very blessed life and have much to contribute to the world around me.

One definition of “sorry” is to feel sympathy for another person’s misfortune. Based on this definition, when people tell me they feel sorry that I have a disability or use a wheelchair they are indicating to me that my life is full of misfortune. My life is far from a misfortune.

I firmly believe that God has a purpose for each one of us in whatever situation we face in life. Persons with disabilities are not looking for people to feel sorry for them and have pity on them. We appreciate people who have compassion and want to assist us through our journey in life.. However, showing pity does not help us feel appreciated and fully part of the world around us. We want people to see us for our ability to overcome our disabilities with courage, grace and dignity.

Come visit the Mary Campbell Center in Wilmington, where I live, and you will have a full appreciation of the contributions persons with disabilities make in the community, every day.

Earlier this year, the Mary Campbell Center hosted a Showcase of Achievements event, where its residents shared their many accomplishments over the past couple of years. Residents work in the community, volunteer, further their education, and prepare for the Special Olympics.

The residents also set physical development goals to better themselves. They work with staff to develop and accomplish these goals, and demonstrate that each one of us has the ability to overcome limitations.

My vision is that people in our community welcome and appreciate the daily contributions made by persons with disabilities; that they even become inspired by those contributions. My vision also includes this: that “I am sorry” and pity shown to persons with disabilities will no longer have a place in our communities.

 

About the Author

David Lynch was a member of the executive committee of CDS’s Community Advisory Council. He passed away in March, 2016.

As a self-advocate, David brought a personal perspective to navigating the disability community and was passionate about seeking improvements for persons with disabilities.

Read full author bio

Comments

  • Very interesting and motivational write-up. One of my friend also faced such misfortune while swimming and now he is not able to swim anymore. People used to express sympathy to him at every step. Still he is enjoying his life with a positive thoughts. I helped him to get to enjoy shower in place of swimming.

  • What a great writer you are! We have always been both blessed and humbled by your thankful attitude and joy in Christ. May the Lord continue to shine through you!
    p.s. Adorable pre-K photo

    • Thank you for reading and commenting. Life would be so much more difficult without joy in Christ and a thankful positive attitude.

  • Thank you for a thougtful and well expressed statement. God had blessed you with many talents. Chuck and I have seen from the earliest days of working with you in Faith’s youth group that you were special in many ways (and your sense of humor is priceless). Looking forward to reading more blogs.

  • Great work, Dave!

  • Thank you for sharing your insight David. Working in Early Intervention, my families need encouragement from adults with disabilities to help define the possibilities for their children’s lives. You are a shining example of the limitless potential their children have for living a full and joyful life!

    • I agree encouragement that comes from adults with disabilities provides hope for their children and young people so they can succeed. From 2010 through 2013 I had the opportunity to serve as a goodwill ambassador for the MDA local office at lock up fundraising event. I remember one particular man that I spoke to who was devastated by his child’s recent diagnosis and I hope I provided him the help he needs to see his son live a full life.

  • David,
    What a beautiful, so well written blog. You are such an inspiration. I’ll be there soon.

    Barbara

  • David,
    Thanks for this helpful post. Your statement, “I firmly believe that God has a purpose for each one of us in whatever situation we face in life,” is a clear articulation of the worth and dignity of each individual. I’m looking forward to my next visit to the Mary Campbell Center.
    Thank you,
    Kevin

  • I appreciate the comments and thoughts. Jerilyn I believe that is important for children With disabilities to hear that they Can have A full and active life. From the pictures Of my whole life I have lived a full and active life.

  • Dave, What a great read!

  • David,
    I appreciate your article.As a person with a disability, I totally agree that having one , does not have to keep a person from contributing to his or her community in a positive manner. I was born with a profound hearing loss and from a very early age was taught that I indeed could and should lead a full life.
    You are a very great example of the fact that people with disabilities are not to be pitied, but encouraged and honored as positive contributors to our World.
    Thank you for being such a shining light .

  • This is well written. I can personally attest to the fact that David is well respected at Faith Pres. Church. His positive outlook on life is a shining example for us all.

  • Hi Dave,
    I enjoyed reading your blog. Keep up the good work!
    Tom

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