Disabled People Need And Make Great Friends

In Columns, Just My Bellybutton, Opinion by Nathasha AlvarezLeave a Comment

one African American male in a manual wheelchair high fives a white male standing up. There is a female and male in the group laughing too. A group of friends.

Friendship is a cornerstone of human experience, offering support, joy, and a sense of belonging. For disabled individuals, friendships often take on an even more profound significance. They are not just about companionship but about exploring new places, engaging in diverse topics, and experiencing life to its fullest. My friends have stood by me during my darkest moments, proving that great friendships require effort and commitment. Just because we are disabled doesn’t mean we can’t make fantastic friends.

The Unseen Value of Friendship

Friendships enrich our lives in countless ways. They provide emotional support, help us navigate challenges, and enhance our social skills. For disabled individuals, friendships can also be a source of practical assistance and advocacy. Non disabled friends can help break down physical and societal barriers, making the world more accessible and inclusive. My non disabled friends find themselves searching for accessibility in public places, even when I am not with them. Some of these friends audaciously find themselves advocating for inclusion too.

Friendships offer a unique kind of therapy that no professional service can match. They give us a platform to share our thoughts, fears, and dreams without judgment. Friends see us for who we are, beyond our disabilities, and this acceptance is crucial for our mental and emotional well-being.

In my newsletter, I’ve discussed my various friendship circles. My pandemic friends and I survived the lockdown’s loneliness with daily check ins, jokes, stories, and family drama. Their support during that time was priceless. We continue to do daily check ins.

Exploring New Horizons

One of the most exciting aspects of friendship is the opportunity to explore new places and experiences. Whether it’s a spontaneous road trip, a visit to a new restaurant, or attending a concert, friends open doors to adventures that we might not have ventured into alone. For disabled individuals, these experiences can be both empowering and liberating.

Traveling with non disabled friends, for example, can be a game-changer. They help navigate inaccessible terrains, provide a helping hand, and ensure that we are included in all activities. This shared experience not only strengthens the bond but also builds confidence in our ability to explore the world.

Personal Anecdote: Indoor Skydiving

One of my most exhilarating experiences was going indoor skydiving with my aunt and a non disabled friend. The sensation of flying, defying gravity, and feeling the rush of wind was incredible. It was something I never thought I would be able to do, but with my friends’ encouragement and support, I took the plunge. This adventure was not just about the thrill but about breaking barriers and pushing boundaries together.

Shared Interests and Diverse Conversations

Friends introduce us to new topics and interests, expanding our horizons. Through friends, we discover hobbies, books, music, and cultures that we might not have encountered on our own. This exchange of ideas and experiences enriches our lives and broadens our perspectives.

In my experience, some of the most profound conversations happen with friends. These discussions range from deep philosophical debates to light-hearted banter. They challenge us to think differently and inspire us to learn more about the world around us. For disabled individuals, these conversations are a reminder that our voices matter and our opinions are valued.

Just about every month, my friends and I have Saturday brunch together for a marathon of coffee, laughter, and surprises. I lovingly call them my Golden Girls, even our chat group is titled as such. Even when they don’t think they’ve helped me, they have.

Friends During Dark Times

True friends are those who stand by us during our darkest moments. They are the ones who offer a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, and a comforting presence. As a disabled person, I have faced numerous challenges, both physical and emotional. During these times, my friends have been my lifeline.

They have celebrated my victories, no matter how small, and have encouraged me to keep pushing forward. This unwavering support has been instrumental in my life’s journey.

The Work Behind Great Friendships

Building and maintaining great friendships requires effort. It involves being present, showing empathy, and sometimes, making sacrifices. This is true for everyone, regardless of their abilities. However, for disabled individuals, there might be additional layers of effort, such as coordinating accessible meeting places or accommodating medical needs.

It’s essential to communicate openly with friends about our needs and limitations. This transparency fosters understanding and helps avoid misunderstandings. Great friendships thrive on mutual respect and the willingness to adapt and support each other.

Non Disabled Friends Aren’t Our Personal Care Attendants

There is a common misconception that disabled individuals are solely recipients of care and support, rather than active participants in friendships. This stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth. Disabled people bring unique perspectives, resilience, and a depth of empathy in friendships.

We are great listeners, problem solvers, and loyal companions. Our experiences have equipped us with a strength and insight that enrich the lives of those around us. Friendships with disabled individuals are not one-sided; they are mutually beneficial and deeply rewarding.

During my elementary years, Human Resources School, now known as The Henry Viscardi Jr School , taught me that my friendships with other physically disabled people would be the standard that I would hold for future friendships. Thank you, HRS.

Real Friends and Real Fun

Growing up, my friends and I spent countless hours at the pool, playing video games, and going to the movies. These activities were not just about passing the time but about creating memories and building bonds that have lasted a lifetime.

My friends have even dragged me to the nightlife of clubbing and concerts. Whether dancing the night away or enjoying live music, these experiences have shown me that real friends don’t see what I can’t do; they have fun with what I can do. They focus on the shared enjoyment and the laughter, not on the limitations.

The Power of “Hello”

Every meaningful friendship in my life started with a simple “Hello.” This small word holds immense power. It signifies the beginning of a connection, a willingness to engage, and the potential for a lasting bond. It’s a reminder that friendships can blossom from the most ordinary moments.

Saying “Hello” requires courage, especially for those who might feel isolated or different. But this simple act can lead to incredible relationships that transform our lives. It opens the door to understanding, acceptance, and shared experiences that enrich both parties.

Conclusion: Cherishing Our Friends

Friendships are a vital part of life, offering joy, support, and new experiences. For disabled individuals, they hold an even deeper significance. They help us navigate the world, provide emotional and practical support, and remind us that we are valued and loved.

Building great friendships requires effort, but the rewards are immeasurable. By saying “Hello,” we open ourselves to connections that can change our lives. As we cherish these friendships, let’s remember the power they hold and the incredible impact they have on our journey.

In celebrating the importance of friendships, we acknowledge that they are a fundamental part of our well-being. They are the anchors that keep us grounded and the wings that help us soar. No matter our abilities, we all have the potential to be fantastic friends, and through these connections, we find strength, joy, and a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Work on the friendships you want to keep, search for the friendships you want to have, remove the friendships that hold you back. Life is short. We know that. So just do it!

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