It's about respect.
What people often see first is the “Dear Author” in the first part of the image. Please don’t focus on that. I love the authors and other readers I have gotten to know. They have shown me how wonderful the book world can be.
The message is much deeper than can been seen at first glance. This post is inspired by this image shared by my soul sister on Facebook. I have to admit that this sparked an incredible amount of anger within me as I read it. Don’t worry, this isn’t a rant or designed to put anyone down. It’s merely to share my thoughts and feelings on this image. I don’t know how real or old this letter is. What I’m “speaking” to is the message within. I am speaking from four points of view: the former Army brat, the friend to those with visible disabilities, as one who has invisible disabilities, and as a human being.
I am a former Army brat. My father is retired Army. My brother is active Army. I have many family members in the Armed Forces. This letter angers me because of the disrespect toward a veteran, someone who sacrificed their life and well-being for our country and our people. I understand that people don’t view veterans the same way I do. Not everyone sees members of the Armed Forces, active or retired, as heroes like I do. Granted, just like every profession or calling, there are some bad people in the Armed Forces. I know that every single one of them didn’t join the military for that altruistic reason that many do. I am in no place to judge others and their reasons for doing things. I cannot force people to see military service members as heroes. However, I will not tolerate such blatant disrespect.
From the second point of view, the friend to those with visible disabilities. I have several friends and family members living with disabilities. They are some of the strongest people this world has. They are fighting things that they can’t physically fight or defeat with education and optimism. They deal with stigma from people who give in to ignorance. Though their faces are stoic or even have a smile, they are hurting inside because of the pain inflicted by others. This angers me so much. Why hurt or antagonize people who have more than enough to fight in their lives? Many people living with disabilities are the most beautiful people on Earth. Why do or say hurtful things because of your opinion of their needs?
From the third point of view, I am someone with an invisible disability. That’s not my personal “label”. I was recently told that due to the combination of illnesses racking my body, I am disabled and it will only get worse unless a miracle happens. Now if you look at me, you’d think that I’m someone whose only disability is obesity. If I were to ride a scooter in a store, people would look at me funny and probably think that I’m just being lazy. Little do they know that am in excruciating illness-induced pain. Little do they know that the medication that I’m stuck on increases my chances for another round of cancer significantly while other illnesses ravage my body. So, if I allow myself to find some form of comfort, even in public, why should I be treated like I should feel guilty for doing so? Why should my family and friends be hurt or ashamed when someone chooses to be ignorant or simply uncaring towards me? Just because you can't see it, it doesn't mean that it's not there. Like those living with PTSD. All forms and causes of PTSD. There should be no shame. No judgement.
People with disabilities, visible and invisible, know what real struggle is because they--we-- face it every day. We not only have to fight diseases and conditions and cancers, but we fight ignorance, stigma, and society's definition of "normal". To that, I saw screw "normal" because people with disabilities are warriors. We are fighters. We are amazing examples of true strength and compassion. We are also people who deserve respect like everyone else.
Lastly, from the point of view of a human being. This isn’t about coddling people. This is simply about respect. I ask that if you can’t understand, please respect others. In the case of this image, it could mean your livelihood. How hard is it to respect other people? If they are at an event where you are selling something you are proud of, how hard would it be to respect those there to celebrate your pride? Who share your joy? If you can’t focus on doing something good just for the sake of it, do it because it could literally make your life more difficult. I ask that you try your best to be like the other authors and attendees depicted in this image. Show respect and be kind. It really doesn’t cost you anything.
Until later…be safe and be kind to one another.