The Extra Mile

As many of my readers are aware of by now, I love shoes! I’ve always struggled with style and not always being confident in what I wear, but when it comes to picking out shoes, I have a great time. I like all kinds of shoes: tall heels, wedge heels, simple flats, colorful tennis shoes, and cute sandals. My love for shoes normally doesn’t get me in trouble… that is, until I need to pack a suitcase. Shoes take up a lot of space in a bag, so there is always the dilemma of which shoes to take that will coordinate the best with the outfits I pack.

I was facing this very dilemma as I prepared to fly to a conference for work. I needed to pack a carry-on for six days, and I didn’t know how I was going to accomplish it. I finally decided on three pairs of flip-flop sandals in different colors to provide the most versatility for my wardrobe, and I was content with my choices. I was aware that maybe it would be a good idea to pack some durable tennis shoes, but I figured that the only time I would need to seriously walk would be at the Minneapolis/ St. Paul airport.

Well, soon after arriving at the conference site, I regretted the fact that I had not packed a good pair of shoes. Two other conference attendees and I decided to venture off campus to find some dinner, and we quickly realized that our walk to find nourishment would cover nearly two miles round trip. We joked that we were apparently willing to go the distance when it came to getting what we wanted for dinner, and that would be Culver’s. The walk was nice and we got to know each other; the only downside was the pain I felt radiating from my feet. I later found a blister on each foot— an instant reminder of our willingness to go the extra mile.

The incident made me think back to a few days earlier when I had stayed with family friends before arriving at the conference site. I had the opportunity to reconnect with three people I love very much: a father and mother who daily care for their adult daughter with significant intellectual disabilities. Although this family faces daily challenges, they live their lives to the honor and glory of God in everything they do. The mother, in particular, spends a great deal of time each day caring for her daughter and making sure she is taken care of first before the mother sees to her own needs. I observed that it was often 9:30 a.m. before the family was ready to face the day after everyone was fed, bathed, and prepared for any activities. I marveled at this mother’s patience and dedication to her daughter. Talk about going the extra mile for one you love!

While I attended the conference, I met several individuals who dedicate their lives to caring for people with disabilities. These people go the extra mile every day to serve and provide for the person with disabilities, often laying aside their own personal agenda, needs, or wants. Facing this realization made me consider just how selfish I can be. Because I am a person with a disability, I often have to ask for favors. I am frequently on the receiving end of someone’s care and attention. As I considered those that go the extra mile for me and others with disabilities, I wondered what it would look like to reach out to others to show my love.

Disability was not a factor here. Going the extra mile is not just something that happens when disability is in the equation. I thought about how I could be more patient with the “difficult” people in my life; I call these people EGRs, meaning Extra Grace Required. When I am irritated with someone, the last thing I want to do is endure another conversation or give hours of my time to provide help. I have often told others that I sometimes don’t feel like I am compassionate toward others. I need to remember that sometimes I don’t know a person’s full story and I need to give them the benefit of the doubt before I make snap judgments. If I make assumptions about others and think I know best, I tend to separate myself from the concerns at hand. I need to remind myself of the reward of investing in someone’s life, for even though going the extra mile has its challenges and irritations, there is often a great reward on the other side.

Working with people with disabilities and enduring life with “difficult” people is never an easy journey, and sometimes these interactions result in proverbial blisters— blisters on the heart and soul. I had literal blisters on my feet that day as I went in search of dinner, but when I thought about the pain that often comes with living with disability and difficult relationships, I was reminded of the sweet reward at the end of the journey. I personally believe that people with disabilities are some of the sweetest people on earth, and I’m not just saying that because I am a person with a disability. My friend Sandy has always said that her daughter is a sweet blessing in her life. Yes, caring for her brings significant challenges, but in Sandy’s eyes, the reward is having this blessing of a daughter in her life.

As my friends sampled the famous Culver’s custard (I couldn’t indulge because of the egg content in the ice cream), I thought about the sweetness of the treat. Were those blisters on my feet worth it even if I couldn’t taste the ice cream? Absolutely! I knew my friends were enjoying their dessert. Its like my friend Sandy. She can’t always see the reward in the daily nitty-gritty in doing life with her daughter, but in the grander scheme of things there is nothing sweeter than loving her daughter.

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