It was a typical morning. I ran down the stairs, as I do most mornings, to catch my train to the city and get to work.
I managed to make it just in time to step into a crammed train and lifted my phone out of my back pocket.
I quickly became engrossed in my e-book until I heard the older woman in front of me ask, “would you like to sit down?”
Her words were directed at a 20 something, dark-haired, tall guy standing next to me. His service dog was standing quietly at his feet.
He was just about to respond when a middle-aged man with a cane, sitting next to the woman who had generously offered her seat, turned to her and half-whispered (not quietly enough for those closest to him not to be able to hear): “he’s a full-abled man; you do not need to offer him your seat. He’s clearly not disabled.”
I stood there. Frozen. Frozen with embarrassment, with anger, with frustration over what had just been said – did someone really just say that out loud?
The guy standing next to me on bart responded to the elderly woman with a polite, “no thank you, ma’am.”
I was stunned and knew that I should say something. When I finally processed, I felt that too much time had transpired. I questioned whether it was too late to say something. I was still thinking about it when we pulled into 12th street station in downtown Oakland.
The guy standing next to me gathered his things. His dog ready to accompany him, they both paused and he turned to the man with the cane.
With a shake in his voice, he said to him, “You know, sir, I think it’s important that you know that just because someone does not have a visible disability, that does not make them any less disabled. My service dog may not be a guide dog for the blind, but that doesn’t make him any less of a service dog. And, though, it is none of your business what disability I have, I hope that you never make such hateful comments to someone whose story you don’t know.”
With that, he walked out of the train.
For the guy standing next to me on bart, I am sincerely sorry that I didn’t stand up for you the second that this comment was made. I felt your hurt and I am sorry that I didn’t do anything about it.
For the guy standing next to me on bart, your courage is inspiring. Thank you. Thank you for not keeping quiet in a moment where someone needed to be educated. I know that you, too, thought long and hard about speaking up. And then, mustering all of your courage, you did speak up. Again, thank you.
For the guy standing next to me on bart, I know that you’ll have to deal with this again. I hope that you don’t get discouraged and continue to educate and speak up for yourself. I know that I will not think twice about standing up with you or anyone else in a similar situation the next time I’m present.
Some wounds are invisible. That does not make them any less painful.
Just because PTSD does not leave someone with a missing limb that does not mean that it isn’t a challenge that someone has to work with every day.
Just because epilepsy isn’t as visible as blindness that does not mean that someone has the right to make a judgement call on how disabled the person affected is.
Just because asthma does not announce itself in a neon colored dress that does not make it a ‘lesser’ kind of disability.
We have this notion that pain and suffering can be measured.
We assume that because Sarah’s dad has cancer, then Jeff does not have the right to express his difficulties with depression.
We are in constant competition to see who has it worse, only to measure if they deserve to voice their suffering. That’s not the way pain works. Pain is pain.
A disability is a disability.
To the guy standing next to me on bart, thank you for the reminder.