You might call me crazy for saying this, but there are very tangible benefits to being disabled. In fact, I’d go so far as to say many of the things people consider disadvantages actually result in the greatest advantages I get in life.
Not being able to do very much for myself means I am almost entirely exempt from many of the boring, menial tasks other people have to do every day.
I will likely never wash a dish in my life.
I have literally no idea how to make a bed.
Washing machines are a mystery to me.
I get all my food cooked for me.
I spend 90% of my waking hours (rather than the average 30%) doing whatever I like; I’m 60% more free than most people will ever be.
And to think most of the people who see me on the street probably pity me.
Lots of people are willing to pay large sums of money to remove those responsibilities from their lives, often while enduring criticism from their friends, family and colleagues for being ‘lazy’.
I HAVE to delegate those things and as a result, can do so with ZERO criticism. In fact, people say nice things instead. Things like…
“George has SUCH a good attitude.”
“George is so clever to do all that.”
“George is so courageous.”
My friends will confirm for you it’s a load of bull; there’s nothing special about me, nothing other people (like you) don’t also have.
My life is one of ‘enforced leisure’, NOT prejudice or pain or whatever it’s meant to be. At the very least, you and I should be able to agree that other people’s perceptions of us are somewhat warped, right?
My simple proposition is you should use this to your advantage, rather than let it irritate you. Here are just some of the wonderful benefits you can enjoy thanks to the ignorance of society:
– Easily impress- there is nothing people love more than an underdog, achieving even the smallest thing can make you seem superhuman.
– The genuine selflessness of others- there is nothing more likely to restore your faith in humanity than an encounter with somebody who simply wants to help because they can and will go out of their way to do so.
– Exemption from the status quo – being different often means you aren’t expected to play by the same rules or fit into the same mould as everyone else, use this as an opportunity to craft your own rules – those who make the rules win the game.
– Automatic differentiation – many people work VERY hard to stand out in a crowd; you and I do so by default. Used correctly, this is the biggest advantage and blessing anyone could ever hope for. The ‘guy in the wheelchair who plays guitar like a Jimmy Hendrix’ is far more memorable than just the ‘guy who plays guitar like Jimmy Hendrix.’ People who meet me once very rarely seem to forget me; the only problem is I often fail to remember them.
– FREE STUFF – free carer’s tickets are the best invention ever, period. I’ve gotten more free stuff over my lifetime than most celebrities ever do. I’ve had laptops, TVs (the 50” plasma television in my mum’s lounge was bought by the Make a Wish Foundation for just under £8,000 or $12,000 in 2002), subsidised cars, holidays, wheelchairs, and benefits. Not to mention the salaries of my 12 personal assistants, which are funded by the state. Having Muscular Dystrophy is like walking around with a sign that says ‘Give me FREE stuff.’
And here are some smaller, less serious but very cool benefits:
– Queue jumper – studies (REAL scientific studies) show adding the word ‘because’ to an excuse when asking to jump a queue increases your success rate significantly. I know from experience adding “because of the wheelchair/stick/whatever” will work 100% of the time (it’s never failed me). And we all know you don’t even need to make an excuse at theme parks, they just let you through like you’re royalty.
– Disabled toilets – aside from the mangy ones where people unload themselves, these things are far more civilised and comfortable than most public toilets. In fact, I recently found one that was more like an executive bathroom in a hotel (it was at Wimbledon tennis grounds).
My friends and I even have our own term for my taking advantage of these benefits – we call it ‘playing the cripple card.’ Once you identify the opportunities in your adversity it casts your life in an entirely different light, wouldn’t you agree?
I’m not saying there aren’t still challenges that need addressing and I’m certainly not trivialising the difficulties you and I experience. But just remember to tune in to all the good stuff and take advantage of it.
More importantly, learning the practical skill of turning adversity into opportunity will put you a million miles ahead of everyone else.
By George Baker
This is an extract from George Baker’s book: The Adversity Edge: How an ordinary disabled man overcame impossible odds to achieve his dreams and how you can too. If you liked this you can read more by buying George’s book in paperback, as an e-book or audio book.