I'm pushing down the bike path along the Hudson River on a beautiful spring day. At a nice steady pace, arms pumping, wheels turning, savoring every ray of the April sun, enjoying the gentle breeze, delighting in the sudden burst of brilliant colors here and there along the way. Tulips and daffodils have bloomed, it seems to me, overnight. Arms pumping, wheels turning, in smooth even motions, I roll almost effortlessly, my body and my wheelchair in tune with the springtime, rejoicing in this season of rebirth and of overwhelming beauty. Bicycle riders pass me by, skaters and joggers run alongside me. I am one with all who are moving in tune with the springtime, with all who are rejoicing on this glorious day.
A woman is approaching, on the opposite side of the path, jogging with what seems to me a great deal of effort. She is not young, a bit older than I am, and she is quite a bit overweight. As she gets closer to me I can see that she's breathing heavily and there are beads of perspiration on her forehead. I'm looking at her thinking she should slow down, walk the path rather than jog, enjoy the day. She looks straight at me, and she does slow down. She slows down so she can say to me, with feeling and sincere admiration: "You are an inspiration!"
I am an inspiration to her. I guess she thinks what I'm doing is incredibly courageous. She thinks pushing a wheelchair must be a thousand times harder than jogging when you're out of shape. She thinks if I'm out on this bike path, then certainly she should sweat and huff and puff and be grateful. Be grateful that, though she's getting older, though the battle of the bulge is getting harder to win every day, though life might not be fair, though troubles may abound, at least she's not a cripple like me.
Lady, I'm sure I've done things in my life that could be considered inspirational, as I'm sure you have. But going down this nice smooth path in my wonderful, ultra-light, ultra-maneuverable wheelchair on this glorious spring day is nothing but a great joy. See? Almost no effort at all. Beats jumping curbs and watching out for potholes; sure beats trying to get to work when mountains of snow block the curb cuts. Life can be hard for us all, lady, but springtime comes, time for us all to be inspired and to rejoice.
On this beautiful spring day, with so much inspiration all around us, why do you need to be inspired by me and my wheelchair? Why must you rejoice in what you think is my misfortune, when we can both equally rejoice in this so clear so blue sky? Why must you find comfort in thinking my plight worse than yours? Aren't we both infinitely worse off than this magnolia tree that blooms with such an incredible explosion of beauty every spring? Why must you feel grateful that you're not like me? Why can't we both be happy to be exactly who we are? And be grateful to meet on this bike path, both alive on this wonderful earth, both rejoicing in the overwhelming beauty of this glorious spring day?