“How do you make friends with someone when you have CP?”
I don’t have a laundry list of friends, and that’s O.K. with me. I’ll take quality over quantity any day, especially in regards to friendships.
There’s no magic formula for making friends when you have CP, at least not that I can tell. I have no idea how to respond to such a question. I guess I don’t take the time to think about it. Even so I thought it was a good topic for this month so I wanted to provide an answer past, “you just do,” but I gave it a little twist.
I asked my friend Taylor for his opinion, as someone who has a friend who has CP (Me). As far as friends go Taylor’s one of the best, one of my best. Our relationship is one of a kind, as you’ll probably see, how many people do you meet that know all the words to Its A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow & will sing it with you?
I met Sarah within the first days of my freshman year. She sat behind me in one of the many orientation ice-breakers we attended as incoming students. Before it began, we struck up a conversation. Sarah was full of life, always ready with a smile and an understated chuckle. I learned she was a transfer student, and majoring in drama. We connected right from the start.
When the game ended, Sarah stood up and I saw that something seemed to be different about her legs. She seemed a little wobbly, and when I offered my help, she said politely but firmly “No Thank you.” That moment was defining: I was not to be Sarah’s assistant or helper. We were to be friends.
I felt privileged to be let into Sarah’s friendship circle. I was happy to get to know her dry sense of humor and biting sarcasm. When I walked into Campus Ministry, with Sarah, it was like floating on the red carpet with a celebrity: everyone knew her name, asked her about her life and classes, wanted her opinion on this or that, the list goes on and on.
Throughout college, we went on some crazy adventures, like going through some scary dark neighborhoods in DC on a hunt for a blockbuster (we made it…barely). At the beginning, people stared and wondered what was “wrong” with Sarah. She would trip and students would gawk. Other than that, Sarah was “normal”.
Then again, what is “normal”? Certainly not anyone that majors in Drama or Musical Theatre. We all had a kooky sense of humor, wacko work ethic, and an insane amount of sleep deprivation. Sarah was no different. She quickly adapted to the college lifestyle. Taking on Stage management positions and working in the costume shop, her energy was limitless. No matter how her body was feeling, she always showed up ready to work and learn. Though this was the furthest from her intention, she encouraged everyone around her to “suck it up” and “get over themselves”. (OK, so maybe she didn’t say those per se, but her attitude certainly did.)
People soon got used to Sarah’s CP and her way of life.
Sarah recently came to see me perform a tour. When she arrived, it was like we never left. We had the same banter back and forth over a couple of hot dogs in a diner. We exchanged travel stories and adventures. That’s the thing about Sarah: she has a social spark within her. She is comfortable talking to a brick wall. So it doesn’t matter how long it has been since we’ve chatted, we can always jump back together.
When asked “How do you make friends with someone who has CP?” the answer is simple: find out what you have in common with them. It’s easy to say “Oh, they’re not like me physically, so I can’t be friends with them.” But if you connect on a personal level, like Sarah and I did at the Drama school, then nothing else matters. After getting over the initial hesitation that first day of ice-breakers, I was comfortable seeing Sarah as friend because we were from the same area of the country, had similar interests, and could converse with ease. I am absolutely clueless when it comes to the physical, day-today struggles someone with CP goes through. I DO have a clue about how to make friends though. When I become friends with someone, it’s because I want to get to know them as a person. And let me tell you, my time is precious; if I don’t find you worthy, I can’t be bothered. Just kidding…maybe.
Throughout her life, Sarah has fallen and promptly picked herself back up, both literally and figuratively. Whenever I see Sarah, I am reminded that she is simply herself. What you see is what you get. Her self-worth is not valued on what she accomplished at Physical Therapy; she wants more out of life. Her CP does not impair her zest for life; it fuels it even more.
*A similar version of this post was written on March 29, 2012