“What Happened?”

This is a question I get often. Hardly ever from adults, though. It’s usually the kids who ask this question, often followed by a look of disapproval from a parent or another adult. Kids just have this way of addressing the obvious and wanting to know more — it’s what we call curiosity. It’s also called discussing the elephant in the room!

As we grow older, I think many of us adults lose the curiosity of our youth. Lost to kindness, to political correctness, to internal processing. Or, even worse, lost to a sense of not noticing the other. We rush past one another, barely having the time to hear someone’s response to, “How are you?” It’s like we never cared to know in the first place. I’m as guilty as anyone in this area.

We pass one another on the sidewalk and look the other way. We work side by side for years, but I rarely engage enough to know your story or even your spouse’s name. We can chat about sports and can shoot the breeze for hours, but I find it difficult to ask you about issues of your race and you reciprocate in regards to my disability.

Why is this so hard? Sometimes I wish we all had kids with us everywhere we went. At least that way we’d be forced to address the obvious and engage in the apparent. And, we’d ask questions.

A few years ago, during a trip to California, I visited a former co-worker and his family. After warming up to me, his son started asking rapid-fire questions, most about my lack of arms. His parents were gracious, but also allowed him to address what was right in front of him (kudos to them!).

You’ve got to love the curiosity! How many times have I not told my story of disability? And, how many of you find yourself afraid to ask about things right in front of you?

Be curious! Engage with those around you. Ask the a student or colleague how his or her day has been and really listen to the answer. Introduce yourself to strangers, maybe even to the new guy in the wheelchair. Ask for a story to be told (or even re-told). All of us can do this.

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