The Defiant One.

When waiting for buses I often like to observe people. I like to be aware of my surroundings even if I am ready to fish out my electronic book at the drop of a hat if I sense that boredom is not far away, and often it is.

Looking over the horizon in the direction that my bus was to arrive I saw something else; a young woman slowly advancing in her wheelchair with the sun shining on her gleaming chariot. As she approached I decided to position myself closer to the curb as I wanted to see her face. I wanted to see what she looked like, whether she was young or old, wrinkled or not. I know, it is very superficial on my part. I will assume my humanity, warts and all.

The seconds flew quickly and the wheelchair was closing in. I felt the anticipation of the moment rising in me, as if something stupendous was to arrive. I was now faintly able to see her face but not quite. A few more seconds had to elapse before she suddenly appeared in front of me. As I looked at her face I took a mental snapshot of her as she passed speedily before me. What I saw shook me; she was young, no more than 20 or 25 years old and on her face was etched a defiant look that she offered to the world. It was a look that said that her handicap was no match for her determination to live her life in the way that she wanted. I admired her. I thought to myself that she was very brave, brave to face the cars on the road and brave to face the stares that inevitably must accompany her wherever she went in her wheelchair. She displayed courage, like a soldier going to war or a politician voting against his own party. And she was, in her own way, soldiering in her own life and fighting against prejudices and stereotypes. A giant of a woman she was.

I looked at my life and imagined myself in a wheelchair; could I do what she had done? Could I have looked at people in the eye with the kind of defiance that she had exhibited? Could I have soldiered on like her? I would like to think so, and yet the doubt remains. Hopefully this doubt will never be removed. It makes me more human.


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