After my first couple of meetings at June’s Roll on Capitol Hill, I stopped at one of the basement cafeterias in the tunnels adjoining the Senate buildings. As I fumbled for some change to pay for the soda I purchased I apologized to my cashier for the delay. “Take your time,” she told me. “I understand.” She gestured toward my wheelchair as she began to tear up, “This just happened to my brother.”
She went on to explain that her younger brother had been paralyzed (she did not say how) just two weeks earlier and was still in bad shape in the ICU of a local hospital. The high that I was riding from my positive meeting with a senator’s aide minutes earlier disappeared. All I wanted to do was console the young woman who was physically in front of me, but clearly emotionally and mentally miles away with her brother.
I offered her my business card, and told her I worked for the largest nonprofit dedicated to helping people with spinal cord injuries. She smiled, but I can only imagine it all went over her head as she kept thinking about her brother. It’s a situation many of us have been in, and, sadly, a situation many more will face in the future.
That’s why it is critically important that those of us who have been through those hard times partake in events like the Roll on Capitol Hill and the day-to-day advocacy that so many United Spinal members do in their home cities and states. We have learned from those difficult situations, and what we have learned can be used to improve the way things work, so that maybe — just maybe — people like the woman who helped me in the Senate cafeteria won’t have to deal with all the obstacles we did.