When I answered the phone on that Sunday evening, the person on the other end was one of the last I expected.
“Lorraine, this is Charlie Y.”
My intrigue grew. This man is one of the nicest people on the planet. I’ve known him for years now, he happens to be the doctor that monitors my sleep apnea. We had seen each other at my “check in” appointment a few months back. At that time, he asked me about my writing. When I told him that I had been fortunate enough to have had several of my stories published in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, he said he would like to read one. So, about a week later, I signed a copy of one of the books and I asked one of my caregivers to drop it off to his office. It was a nice gesture I suppose, but I really didn’t think much about it.
“First, I wanted to that you for the book,” he said, “I really enjoyed it. Secondly, my wife and I have season tickets to the Lied Center.” (a theater in town that is part of the University of Kansas. They have concerts and various performances throughout the year. I had only been there once.) “Do you like Josh Blue?” Charlie Y continued, “I am on call this week and cannot attend his show. Would you like the tickets?”
I was stunned. Oh. My. Goodness.
Josh Blue is a comedian that I have long admired. In 2006 He won “Last Comic Standing.” He also happens to have cerebral palsy (like me) and he uses his disability as material for his act. The end result is nothing short of hysterical.
These days I am severely shorthanded when it comes to caregivers and the amazing one that I have could not go with me. Since I really wanted to go to this show, I did something I wouldn’t normally do. Making myself pretty darn vulnerable, I put the following post on Facebook.
Hey, Lawrence Friends: Last night I got an amazing offer. A friend of mine (who also happens to be one of my docs) offered me two free tickets to see Josh Blue at the Lied Center this coming Wednesday night. Josh Blue is a comedian who happens to have cerebral palsy (like me) and he uses his disability as material for his act. I think he is hysterically funny. My caregiver cannot go, and I am looking for some company so that I can see the show. This is an opportunity I would rather not miss. Anyone interested? Please let me know. Thanks!
I didn’t know what would happen. I had done my best, and then I hoped.
The response was great. Several friends from across the country were supportive and told me in messages that they would love to go if they lived closer. Then my friend Beth said, “I would love to go with you, Lorraine, if you don’t already have a date.”
After a quick dinner downtown, Beth and I arrived for the show. I knew I would be entertained, and Josh Blue did not disappoint.
He said things like “I was walking down the street the other day and a woman I have never met before told me that it was inspiring that I was out in the community. I said ‘I am going to the liquor store. Are you still impressed?'”
There was a young man in the audience who I am guessing had cerebral palsy and was also on the autism spectrum. He kept engaging with Mr. Blue during the show, and the comedian was nothing but gracious. After a while, he said, “Hey man, is our bus here yet?” As someone who rode the short bus throughout the years of my education, the intensity of my laughter at that joke almost caused me to fall out of my wheelchair.
At the end of the show, there was a question and answer session. People in the audience were asking Mr. Blue about various aspects of his life and his experience.
For the last question, someone asked, “How do you think what you do changes the perception that the general public has toward people with disabilities?”
My ears perked up. I paid attention. His answer made me pause a bit. He said “I do what I do to make people laugh. If that changes the perception that some people toward those with disabilities, that is great, but that is up to them, not me.” The concept resonated deeply with me.
Often I have said that I believe on of my purposes in life is to do my small part to respectfully break down barriers between people with disabilities and those without disabilities. Josh Blue made me realize that, just like getting a ride to his show, the outcome isn’t up to me.
What I can do is present people with information that I have to share. I can answer questions and I can talk about my personal experience. But whether or not my efforts change other people’s perception of people with disabilities is on them, not me.
I can do my best. Then, I can hope.