The hotel lobby was visible from the second floor, as was the loading and unloading zone outside.
As I got off the elevator, I stood there in awe as I watched a gentleman I’d met earlier in the day get on a small shuttle bus. He proudly stood on the wheelchair lift with the aid of a set of crutches with arm braces.
Leaning on the guard rail, I watched with admiration as he struggled to make his way onto and through the bus. To say it was a slow process is an understatement.
Why wouldn’t he just use a wheelchair? It would be less taxing, not to mention less time consuming. I can be lazy, so I know how I would’ve rolled.
This gentleman was challenged by the simplest of tasks that most of us often take for granted, yet instead of taking the easier way out, he faced his challenge head on and accomplished his mission.
It was quite inspiring to watch.
Patiently awaiting the return of the lift, a young lady in a wheelchair was fully engaged in conversation with the bus driver and displayed a beautiful smile in doing so.
She wasn’t sighing. She wasn’t rolling her eyes. She wasn’t looking at her watch. She was waiting, patiently.
You see, I was there to serve as the host of a celebration for the 23rd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
This was my second year emceeing the celebration, which is hosted by the Center for Independent Living Gulf Coast each year in Ft. Myers, Fla.
The event was attended by a wide range of people, including those with physical and mental disabilities. There was even an Alabama fan present.
The center’s mission is to empower people with disabilities. They help them acquire skills, find services, housing, transportation, employment and physical access to public and private facilities as a means to increase their quality of life.
Upon my arrival, many remembered me from last year, so handshakes and hugs soon ensued.
The event empowered me to do something that I never do. I left my comfort zone along the wall and stepped out onto the dance floor. It wasn’t Kool & the Gang or the Village People who inspired me to do so; it was the folks at the celebration who were there celebrating opportunity and life and encouraging others to do the same.
There were many highlights for me throughout the day, but one of them stands out for obvious reasons.
A lady, who identified herself as a teacher, said she’d never thought of stuttering as a disability until hearing my presentation. I explained to her that for people like me, it’s not; however, for others it most certainly is.
In my opinion, it depends on the severity. For example, does someone with a slight limp have a disability or does he or she just have a slight limp? At this point in my life, I only have a slight limp.
But I digress; there were other highlights.
The gentleman who set his walker aside in order to play the air guitar to the sweet sounds of AC/DC was a highlight, as was the federal judge who’s been in a wheelchair since 1989. He didn’t go to law school until after his accident.
Then there was the race car driver who lost his vision after an accident. He was such an interesting man. I know they don’t want pity, but, be that as it may, I sincerely felt pity for him, but not because of his visual impairment. Nope, it’s because he was a graduate of the University of Alabama.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with my new friends and can’t wait to celebrate with them again next year.
I’ll probably even do a little more dancing, because whether it’s activities, food, or people, life is much more interesting and rewarding when you’re willing to step outside your comfort zone, and for me, that’s a reason to celebrate.
Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.