A Poet's Story
Living With Spina Bifida
I grew up with a birth defect known as spina bifida, a disability that
affects my sense of balance, causing me to walk with a limp. Not only
does it affect the function of the legs, but it also has an impact on
the kidneys, causing them to deteriorate.
The disability has had its ups and downs. As a young child, I can
remember the way other children would look at me and stare because of
the way that I walked. There were many times that my schoolmates would
laugh at me and call me names simply because of their lack of
understanding of why I was a little different, especially back in the
mid 70s and early 80s. Children then were just unwilling to take the
time to learn why one of their classmates might walk, speak or seem
noticeably different from themselves.
Now that I am an adult, I have noticed that the stares and names have
begun to fade, and judgments that once were negative have begun to turn
toward acceptance. The signing of the ADA (American Disabilities Act) has played
a great part in breaking down some of those barriers that, as a child, left me to
fight a war that seemed to have no end. Now I look beyond what I can't do and
focus on what I CAN. I have learned that limitations open doors that
have been closed, showing other ways to meet our needs. I have always
looked at life as a challenge, grasping each obstacle with open arms.
There is nothing in this world that comes easy. I must stand tall and
look forward, to be ever so ready for what still lies ahead. People
often feel sorry for those who were born with some type of disability.
But their compassion is misplaced. Yes, I may not be able to run as fast
or perform certain tasks, but my disability gives me a better look at
life and all that's around me. I want to be seen not as a disability but
as a person who has, and will continue to, bloom. So I decided to become
a advocate on behalf of disabled Americans, to fight for our rights that
for so long have been ignored. I feel that it only takes one powerful
voice to change the minds of many nations, and as long as I have a mouth
to use and a mind to think I will continue to work to bring peace upon
the disabled community. May the words that flow between the lines
connect us to a world of peace.
Robert M. Hensel was born in Rota, Spain in 1969. Currently a resident
of Oswego, NY, he is an international poet-writer. On October 1st of
2000, Robert was honored when the mayor of his home town declared a week
for the disabled, "Beyond Limitations Week", in his name.
This story came here via email .
Poems by Robert M. Hensel