Sarah Lysne: Choosing joy: The joy of being accepted

Published 6:30 am Saturday, March 20, 2021

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In the mid 1970s, my family and I moved from Austin to Mason City, Iowa. My dad worked for the Chicago Northwestern Railroad, and his job was transferred because the depot in Austin closed.

Mason City was a demographically diverse community. I was in second grade. Many of my new friends and I didn’t look the same, but we didn’t care about that. One of my best friends was a boy named Tyrone. He had a huge smile and a contagious laugh. I remember the two of us running around the playground playing tag and the game Foursquare.

In sixth grade, I met my friend Martha. Martha had beautiful black hair, and a quiet demeanor. She was a wonderful artist. She could draw realistic pictures of people and animals. She was humble about her talent, even when she could see that all I could draw was a simple flower.

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We only lived in Mason City for five years, and I lost track of Tyrone and Martha. I’d like to think that if we had kept in touch, we would still be friends today. They gave me the acceptance and security I needed when I was the new kid, and I am forever grateful for that.

Today I’m looking for a new acceptance. I’m trying to accept myself as being a handicapped person. ALS has caused weakness in my arms, hands and ankles. I wear braces on my legs, and I use a cane or a walker to help with balance.

The hardest part about being handicap is the fact that I have to rely on other people, and it’s hard for me to ask for help. I’ve always been an independent, stubborn person. I also have always loved being a caregiver, so I try to focus on the things I can still do to help others.

One of my friends told me that it’s my turn to let other people have the joy of serving, by helping me, like I had the joy of serving others for so many years. I’m trying to get used to this idea, but it is still very difficult for me.

When we look at the act of acceptance, we can find ways to bond with others and to build on the things that we have in common. I am just starting to understand the concept of having a handicap, and it has opened my eyes to the barriers that we put between ourselves and others that are different from us. When we look deep down in our hearts, we will be able to show compassion for others who are not identical to us.

One day when I was out in public for the first time with my cane, I felt uneasy about entering a store because I thought people would stare at me. The first person I made eye contact with was a woman in a wheelchair. I smiled at her, and she smiled at me. No words were spoken, but I felt joyfully accepted.