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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

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Life Rolls On

Lighten Up

130601_0020 I like people who don’t take themselves too seriously. Who can laugh at themselves or make me laugh. People who turn lemons into Long Island Ice Teas. With lemon.

Last Saturday was another Life Rolls On event in Jacksonville Beach — They Will Surf Again. (For more info – please see my past posts or the Life Rolls On website.) I went, not because I love body surfing, but because I wanted to feel the sand in between my toes and the salt water on my skin. I went because I missed the ocean. Sure, I see it often (even since the move), but this was my chance to get in it.

My enthusiasm was shared by another adaptive surfer named Dani. I spent some time with Dani (who has spini-bifida and who I know from the Brooks program), when we both decided we wanted to sit in the water. Make no mistake — this simple pleasure becomes a huge production when you’re in a wheelchair. Particularly because I was in my power chair, having left my beach wheelchair at a friend’s house during the move. First, we had to notify someone who could track down an empty beach wheelchair. 130601_0009Then, I’d be ferried down, while Dani manuevered her manual chair through the sand. As we waited awhile to be able to carry out this smallest of desires, Dani said to me, “We could’ve crawled into the ocean by now.”

I pictured us scuttling across the sand like crabs, though surely not as smoothly. I laughed.

“Want to? Let’s go for it,” she said, serious.

I did want to go for it, but envisioned the hoardes of helpful volunteers who would descend on us as soon as we left our wheelchairs.

“Just yell, left, right or straight,” she instructed.

Did I mention that Dani is also blind? As if one disability wasn’t enough, she got hit with a double whammy.

130601_0023I was ready to make a scene, for the sake of a good story, but just then my beach chariot arrived. Once down by the water, we had a friend snap a picture. Looking at it later, I took in my long, Kermit the Frog legs jutting out next to her little ones. I’m not sure we should hang out together — our height difference is exaggerated, making me look like an amazon woman and her like Tiny Tim.

But, it’s fun to hang out with someone fun. I’ve met disabled people who tend to play the victim. Who are defined by what happened to them or the body they were born into. The kind of people who, ten years later, still tell anyone who’ll listen exactly how many weeks/months they were in a coma. Our loved ones often talk about the time we were in the hospital. We don’t. At least not the “we” I want to be around.

We all have our sad stories. Able-bodied and disabled alike. Some are just sadder than others. So lighten up! Don’t let tragedy or circumstance define you. If Dani and I can do it, so can you.

More Kindness

I hope you’ll forgive the repeat of a previous post, “The Kindness of Strangers.” I didn’t have time to write a new one — I was out surfing. Body surfing to be exact. Life Rolls On hosted their sixth “They Will Surf Again” event this past Saturday in Jacksonville Beach. There were a record number of disabled surfers and all kinds of friends, caregivers and volunteers ready to help wherever needed. I hope you’ll enjoy the new pictures as much as I enjoyed the perfect weather, water and day!

From “The Kindness of Strangers”:

I saw the advantage of owning my own beach wheelchair right away, but other beach chairs were on hand at the lifeguard station to ferry people over the soft sand or into the water. Some folks braved the sand in their regular wheelchairs. My friend, Amy, pushed my chair down by the water to wait my turn at “surfing.”

I’d done this once before (this was Life Rolls On’s fifth year in Jacksonville,) but I was struck again at the large number of volunteers. There were 12 able-bodied volunteers for every disabled surfer. When it came my turn, I understood why. It took six or seven people just to get me out to where the waves were breaking, then shove me off in time to catch one. And volunteers were lined up all the way to the shore to grab me wherever I happened to fall off.

A subsidiary of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, Life Rolls On originally started the “They Will Surf Again” program for people affected by spinal cord injury. The number of participating disabilities has grown to include brain injuries, amputees, varied birth defects and others.

After about my third ride to shore and face full of salt water, I remembered overhearing someone talk about surfing on their knees. Anxious to avoid the stinging spray from my position lying down on the board, I asked if I could try sitting up. This meant a volunteer would ride tandem. This video is the first of two rides I made like that. Now that I know it’s an option, I’m certain there will be many more. My own hooting and hollering was drowned out by that of the volunteers.

I was touched by the enthusiasm, positive attitude and smiling face of each person who assisted that day. I’m not sure who got more out of the experience, the surfers or all those willing to lend a helping hand.

If you’ve followed my blog you know I like to say “disability has its perks.” Here’s another one: being disabled allows me to see the good in people. I’m in the unique position of seeing people at their best. I am reminded of the generosity of the human spirit almost every day when someone holds open a door, untangles Frankie’s leash or waits for me to slowly cross the road  in my power chair. And it’s a good thing too, because with a little help, life does indeed, roll on.

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