Living with "CP"

Mar 3, 2010

Joc French - Lovington High School
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

First impressions are very important, but I feel they can also be a little overrated. I feel when some people pass by a person with a physical handicap that is all they see. They, for some reason, want to judge, or simply ignore the person. I think this is an expected reaction in our society. The unknown seems to frighten people.

I have cerebral palsy, and I am very much aware when I walk into a public place that people are staring, as if to figure me out.  Or, sometimes, they take a glance and see I walk different than people without a disability and turn their head as if they didn’t see me.

God made us all unique for a reason, and given the chance we all can shine.

I was spending a holiday with my family and there was also some distant family there that had seen me before, but never tried to get to know me. This particular day we decided to play a card game called UNO Attack.  We all had so much fun, laughing and joking with each other. I later was told that an uncle that I never really knew made a comment to another family member that he never knew I had such a good personality and was so funny. This just goes to show me that it’s not only complete strangers who judge those with disabilities.

Another incident happened that was humorous to my mother. On a hot summer day we were swimming at a public pool and one of my teachers from school joined my mother at the side of the pool. After a period of time just chatting, the teacher said, “By the way, where is Joc?”

My mother responded with a proud smile, “He is right in front of you swimming.” The teacher’s reaction was that she never dreamed I’d be in the pool, swimming alone. Needless to say, she was impressed.  Over the years I have taught several of my friends who do not have a disability to swim. I sure can’t win a foot race, but there are lots of things I can do. I might accomplish some things in a whole different way than some people, and I feel that is ok.

I think people should take the time to get to know someone before judging them by what they see on the outside. God made us all unique for a reason, and given the chance we all can shine. My mother hung a quote in my room several years ago that reads, “Don’t try so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out.”

I believe this to be true. It takes too much energy out of me to just try to fit in. I think it’s a lot easier to be just me and hope people take time to get to know me for me.

So my advice to people is first impressions can be overrated. A true impression is when you actually interact with the individual and get to know them. Yes, I may have cerebral palsy, and people may not want to look at me or talk to me, but I will never give up, and I will keep on being me for the rest of my life.