Today, we celebrate our right to vote and the freedom we have to, regardless of our political affiliation, support whomever we choose. Today especially, we celebrate the idea of difference, in all its forms. No two people will ever share the same beliefs, ideals, values, opinions, or views. We are all unique. And while that difference certainly makes this world interesting, it is the acceptance of — indeed, the embracing of — such diversity that makes it special.
And that diversity can be found in more than just difference of opinion. It can also be seen in difference of ability. We’ve probably all heard the expression “different, not less.” This couldn’t be more true. We are all different — in body, shape, form, appearance, ability and inclination. Two people may be equally equipped with the tools to become excellent painters, but only one might exhibit any real talent in the area. One person might use verbal language to communicate, while another uses sign language or a technological device. One person might move using their legs, while another might use a wheelchair or similar assistive device. But just because one method might be seen as “the norm,” doesn’t make it superior to any others.
Imagine you’re in a large room with hundreds of people. As you look around, you see that most of the people are using wheelchairs. Only twenty or thirty — the minority — seem to be walking. Obviously, in this room, wheelchair use is the norm. Does that make the people who walk any less worthy or capable? No. It just means they’re using a different method of movement.
“Normal” is a misleading term. It gives the appearance of being permanent — that there is one fixed “normal” — when, in fact, it’s highly subjective and always changing. “Normal” changes depending on the location, situation, time, season, etc. For example, if someone were to walk around in shorts and a t-shirt in summer, no one would think twice. But that same outfit in a snowstorm in December would be seen as strange and odd, to say the least. What’s deemed normal one year is judged peculiar the next.
There’s really no such thing as “normal.” There’s just millions of people, each trying to make their way through the world and its many challenges. We are all different, so we navigate differently. And it’s a good thing we do. As the well-known quote by Albert Einstein goes, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”