Walking Free

Today begins with a new sense of hope and responsibility as I step out of my house to greet the morning.  There are chores to be finished, books to be read, groceries to be bought, appointments to be kept, tests to be passed.  None of these activities could be achieved easily, without the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other.

That is, the ability to walk.

Most of us do not remember the time before we could walk on our own two feet, or the sense of freedom we felt when we no longer had to crawl on the floor.  Few people recognize you can tell a lot about a person just by the way they walk.  Furthermore, people do not appreciate walking until they suffer a decline or lose the ability altogether.

When children are small and unable to walk the world is a gigantic mystery to them just waiting to be solved.  They are confined to exploring things on the same level as themselves or things within crawling distance.  In addition, everything from their perspective is huge, and they are at the mercy of things bigger than themselves.  After children learn to walk a whole new reality opens to them.  They are able to reach things that were once off limits and explore places they have never seen before.  Also, the increase in height, children are more empowered and less threatened by the world around them.  In walking, children have the freedom to be in control of their own lives.

There is no greater example of a child’s control over their life than to watch them while they walk.  Their only concern is where they will go and what they will find when they get there.  In fact, there seems to be a time in a child’s life where all they do is run.  They run in the supermarket.  They run in a shopping mall.  They run in a parking lot all while their parents follow behind them with an exasperated look on their face commanding, “No, stop, come back here, put that down, and don’t you dare go running around this store naked! We are not going to have another day like last Tuesday, right?”  Even though parents may be driven to the brink of insanity, in those uninhibited moments, the child is free.

As people grow they become more inhibited by their problems and responsibilities in life, thereby, affecting how they carry themselves.  Some people may take the time to say, “Hello,” or smile. as they pass, while others keep walking.  Some people may bump into you as they are walking and not stop to say, “Excuse me.”  Still, others, walk with their head down and refuse to make eye contact out of fear, anxiety, or a lack of confidence.   These little uses of body language can teach us a lot about the personality or point of view of others.  Body language can be misinterpreted, but even though people may be distracted by the responsibilities of their lives people should be aware of how they walk affects people around them, including me.

I recently met the mother of a young man who, like me, had Cerebral palsy.  Even though he had the ability to walk with freedom, he refused.  As to the real reason why I do not know.  According to his mother, he claimed it was because he had accepted his “limitations.”  I don’t understand why a person who could walk, would not choose to walk freely.  It is more functional.  Just like driving is more functional than riding a bus.

The people who most understand the value of walking are those whose abilities decline over time.  Whether due to injury or long-term affliction, there is no higher priority than the ability to walk.  The primary goal of one’s recovery is to regain the confidence of walking.  Even when walking typically is out of the question people may use crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs to emulate those who walk freely.

In spite of this, people who walk unrestricted tend to place themselves above others who do not walk as they do.  People who walk using wheelchairs are forced into a position of subordination in comparison to erect-walking people.  It is presumed in wheelchairs are simply inferior to others.  People who use crutches, walkers, or wheelchairs are snickered at and made to feel like there is something wrong with them.  In actuality, people are choosing not to be impeded by the restrictions placed upon them.  They didn’t adapt to their disability. they resisted its impact on their lives; gained a better sense of mastery, and changed their own environment.

They are free.

The reason why walking is so valuable to me is that I was told I would be incapable of it.  Because of Cerebral palsy, I was ostracized and made to feel inferior.  My entire life has been in pursuit of a better way to walk.  Even though it looks atypical to others, even though, I still fight to maintain my mastery of walking, in spite of sacrifice, I am not inferior.  I am unafraid of an environment that was once unfamiliar to me.  I am free.  Absolutely free.

I share this story with you now to encourage you to find the things that are valuable to you.  You may already know.  What are you willing to protect what is valuable to you?  So many times, people say, “I would walk to the ends of the Earth,” but they do not walk toward the horizon.  Strive to move toward the things valuable to you, and through effort, they will be your reality.

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