Transforming Curiosity Into Lessons For Life
Creepy Cool Curiosity
As an amputee I find myself being a magnet for curious questions. I often have people ask me how I lost my legs or what happened to them. I was recently sitting on a bench in a park when I sparked the attention of a 10-year-old boy. From a distance I could sense the boy’s curiosity and he approached me with amazement. I noticed that his mother felt uncertain as to how I would respond to his questions as they both came closer with caution.
This was my opportunity to turn this situation into a teachable moment. I’ve learned from personal experience that the questions can be creepy or cool.
People want to ask me what happened, but are uncertain as to how to approach me. It’s my job to make them feel as comfortable as possible. In most cases, I am able to convey a message of hope and inspiration.
While I don’t go into details of my accident, I want them to know that I lost my legs above and below the knees. I answer the question in my 3 step model of appreciation, acceptance and responding to their curiosity. The second most common question is how my prosthetics work. I explain that the prosthetics are unique and for many people it’s the first time they have seen a close view of how they operate.
I ask them if they’d like to know how they work. And the answer is nearly always, “Absolutely!” I describe each element of the legs and what purpose it has. I explain that my knee has a microprocessor that assists me in my walk. It’s capable of tracking steps, assisting me down inclines and adapting to different heights of stairs.
Show and Tell
In certain cases I might show you my leg. Wearing two molded sockets people don’t give much thought to how the system operates. If I feel the sincerity of the person asking, I may take off the socket to show the liner, socks and suspension systems.
I might even go as far as to show them the residual limb and explain how the legs stay on.
Some people that I encounter experience a discomfort when I show them my legs. It’s my role to ease their anxiety through inspiration and to give new perspectives. Society is conditioned to have a “Don’t ask” approach to people with disabilities. I wear my legs with confidence and welcome when people ask me questions.
I close the conversation by asking what message did you take from this? Was I able to give insight to your curiosity? Was it creepy or was it cool?
In my role as an amputee; I hope my outlook encourages others to be ready for the questions they will encounter. There are times when I might have preferred to enjoy the solitude of the moment and not want to be approached –but I’ve learned that I have an opportunity to make every contact a positive experience for me and for them.