Monday, October 09, 2006


I’ve been thinking about the connection between disability and friendship.

What makes a friend? What do I look for in a friendship? What do I like about my friends?


I look for people who like to think “outside the box” and challenge the status quo. Why do things the way they’ve always been done, just because they’ve always been done that way? People who want to make the world a better place excite me.

I enjoy people who make music. Musicians are fun people who know how to have a good time.

I enjoy watching sports and talking about sports with friends. Go Bears!

I enjoy exploring nature with friends – nothing like a hike in the woods on a fall day.

I look for people with a positive life attitude – a positive, realistic view of the world. Not sappy or phony – but a “taking the good with the bad” attitude and honestly realizing that there is so much good.

I look for people who like to learn and grow; people who are humble enough to recognize that they don’t know all the answers and who like to have challenging conversations.

I enjoy people who like to play. A game of poker with my buddies makes a fun Friday evening. And, I finally have a fantasy football team in first place!

I look for people who work hard to fulfill their passion.

I like people with a sense of humor. Laughing is fun. Ever listen to “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me?”

Notice that “disability” is not on my list. Some of my friends have disabilities, some don't. It's not a factor.

But much of society has it on their list.

Some people, both peers and adults, have avoided me because of my “outside” – perhaps my drooling, being in a wheelchair, limited use of my hands. Others, perhaps deluding themselves into thinking they were “open-minded”, talked down to me or were my “friend” only when convenient for them.

A visible disability presents superficial “differences”. But, it’s the inside qualities that matter in real friendships. We can share so much in common with each other, but we need to get to know what’s on the inside to find out. Seeing a person simply as his or her disability is a roadblock to a real relationship, and, sadly, both people end up missing out.


Anonymous said...

Hey David!! I am enjoying reading your thoughts and insights. This one reminds me of something one of my rather astute parents said, which was basically that everybody has some type of disability - but on some, it's a bit more obvious than on others!!

Keep up the great work. Looking forward to more.

Donna S

Anonymous said...

Hi, David-

I especially enjoyed this because it made me think of what I value in people. I share preference for many of the same attributes you have astutely listed.

I think I would include, on my list, the willingness of others to let me make mistakes and still think highly of me. I mess up sometimes, and it's nice to know that people closest to me know that I didn't do it on purpose or because I was being thoughtless.

I also enjoy people who like to learn for learning's sake. That's fun, and there's always something to talk about.

And the "dog factor" - if you don't love them, at least be able to tolerate them! :)

I haven't shared this site with my colleagues yet - lost track of that intent...I need to do that.

Great job, kid. (I feel the need to put "kid" in quotes these days!)

Lee P. :)

Anonymous said...

I see several "typical list" omissions - gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and probably more that I haven't thought of.

Wondering - Is it easier for those that society looks down upon more able to have deeper relationships? Interesting thought. If so, why? Better self-understanding???

Patty said...

Hi David and friends,

David, your insights about people who "skim the surface" in getting to know others made me think. I know you're right, and it is a frustrating truth that most people don't really want to take the time to get beyond their first impressions.

I've known people for years who still operate on those first impressions - and that is true whether or not there is a disability, a difference in skin color, or some other feature that makes people superficially stand apart.

Actually, I had an experience that was along the same lines in this past year. I joined a group last fall that was going to spend a series of weekends together, to learn about ourselves and provide a community that would support and challenge each other. There were 9 women and three men. Two of the women were gay, Karla and Ruthie.

It occurred to me that I had never really known a gay person well, and at first I felt sort of uncomfortable. I also realized that part of the reason I never had been friends with a gay person was that I always have zeroed in on their gayness - and wasn't that open to moving beyond that.

Anyway, I paid attention to them in the first weekend and saw the unusually intimate love they showed for each other. I also got to know them both pretty well, because that was the nature of the group. I really liked them a lot. For the first time, I realized that their gay relationship was not so much about the sex as it was about the intimacy, the caring, and simply relating. In the next few months, I moved away from that superficiality you wrote about so well, and quite simply, I grew up a little bit.

Sadly, at Christmas time, Ruthie died, very unexpectedly. I helped Karla in her grief, and during the months that followed, we have become the best of friends.

David, I guess it takes some of us a long time to learn. But I thank God that I finally the saying goes, "better late than never!"


(p.s. - I think I would say the top qualities I look for in a friend are: someone who accepts and loves me as I am; someone who is honest; and someone who encourages me to be the person I was created to be - and also, someone who likes to have fun and laugh.)

David said...

Wow! I am really moved by all your comments and insights. I see I have more things to add to my list.

I hadn't thought that much about superficial relationships outside the disability perspective. I appreciate very much you sharing your wisdom with me.

I am learning so much from this project - some I had not expected.

Thank you,

Anonymous said...

Hi David,
Glad we figured out how to leave comments. I think your project is incredible and I'm hoping that everyone will send this along to their entire address book. Take care, David and thanks for what you are doing.
Steve P.

Bob Heineman said...

This is a great post. I love your final paragraph. You've done a great job of displaying this to all of us.

-- Bob H

Frank Gayes said...

Your "Relationship" article has great insight
and a lot of depth.
We enjoy reading them. It makes one think.
Keep up your good work.
Love G/Mom & G/Pop Gayes