We are taught from an early age to not assume a person’s worth by their appearance. Yet it’s human nature to do just that, which is why getting a severe brain injury my junior year of high school was such a life lesson.
The summer after my accident I went to a brain injury camp two days a week. I remember on the first day of camp I was super excited to meet others with brain injury, thinking a few would also be in wheelchairs. Finally, someone I could relate to!
Those excited and hopeful feelings were on my mind as Amy loaded me into the wheelchair van and drove me to Lake Fenton High School where the camp was housed. But they were soon extinguished. When Amy pushed me into the ’camp room’ as usual, my chair got caught on the threshold. Regardless my smile stayed plastered on my face. Once the debacle of my entrance got sorted out, people said hi as I met with my physical therapist (PT) real quick before the other campers arrived.
After a while of working with Jay, I noticed the other campers arrive. No one else was in a wheelchair! They were all wearing their camp shirts and shorts like I was. That is until a boy arrived; he was wearing black pants, his camp T-shirt, sunglasses and had his dark hair cut very different from other boys. Despite that, there was something about him I found cute. (Surprise, surprise)
After I was done working with Jay and right before camp formerly started my chair was pushed up to the farthest table; across from the unique boy, who I later learned was named Tom. Well Tom wasn’t too pleased to have my company and made this known. He assumed, like the rest of the public, that because I was in a wheelchair I was mentally handicapped. I don’t remember what exactly he said or what exactly I replied, but he was impressed by my snarkiness, whatever it was.
Well it’s been six years since camp and he comes to every party I throw. He’s a great friend, though he’ll never let you call him that. He says he’s just a friend, not good or great. But between you and me (and now cyber space) Tom’s a great friend, or at least a very good one. Lately I’ve felt like I could tell him anything and I have, sometimes more then I should. At times I think, what if I let Tom’s initial appearance scare me away? I definitely would have missed out, I’m sure he agrees.