Interesting. I have never been able to walk. I prefer the term crippled to describe my inability to walk. Am I disabled? Yes. But if I was caught up in the different condescending ways people have described me, I would have never left the house.

But since I have left the house, I must confess: My father and nine siblings made me feel as though nothing wrong with me. They helped when they knew I could not do something and never felt sorry for me.

Another confession: Society tried to force me into the box marked, “Can’t do.” And I almost jumped into another box marked, “Don’t try.” But with all of the forces working against me because of the way people look at me, I laugh. For instance, I was standing on a corner leaning on my crutches wearing clean clothes, new shoes and a nice watch on my wrist. Then a security guard of the building that took up the entire block told me, “You can’t panhandle here.” I reached in my pocked and pulled out a wad of hundreds and twenty dollar bills. He apologized. But if I had a dollar for every time someone tried to give me money just by looking at me on crutches, I could afford to buy a home in the Hamptons.

80% of the people I come across who see I could use assistance, do so with genuine kindness and understanding, with no whiff of pity, which I do appreciate. But I cannot guess what is running through the mind of those who are too scared to offer those with mobility problems assistance.

1983 to 1993 Bible Study teacher at SF juvenile hall. Currently prison reform activist and author of Case Game - Activating the Activist; an autobiography.

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