There are individuals who, faced with extraordinary circumstances, elevate themselves in deeds the rest of us find astounding. In turn, we designate them as special human beings, whose achievements go beyond anything we identify as possible in ourselves.
Our culture, which values courage, often entreats persons with disabilities to search for an ideal image – a hero who climbs Everest in a wheelchair, another who despite ALS, goes on to become one of the most brilliant physicists we have known, and many others whose names and achievements are part of our communal hero photo album.
When you sit with clients who have aphasia, over time, you are witness to the evolution of a changed life. There is infinite courage there, though only rarely may you read about it in a newspaper profile, or watch it unfold in a documentary or published photos. It is the courage to greet someone on the street, to make a telephone call, to order in a restaurant, to wish a grandchild “happy birthday,” to sing in the church choir, to say, “I love you” to someone who shares the current journey, and all of the ones that preceded it.
When I see wartime photos, the general standing in a jeep in the midst of the long march, my eyes soon turn to the infantry men surrounding the jeep, facing the unknown, and planting one foot in front of the other.
People with aphasia: I see your steps.