Thanks, but Your Prayers Really Aren’t Necessary

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by Brianna Albers |

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Last Sunday, my dad took me by surprise.

“I don’t have anything planned for today,” he said as he helped me get out of bed. “Let’s do something fun.”

I assumed he meant something simple, like getting ice cream or dropping by the grocery store for a bouquet of flowers. But he had something far grander in mind.

Late March is historically a bad time for me. It’s warm enough for the snow to melt, triggering all sorts of seasonal allergies, but too cold for me to get outside. The world outside my window is gray and uninviting — a perfect mirror of my brain, with its low-grade depression leeching the light from my life. I’m not just tired, I’m irritable. Hopeless.

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A day on the town was appealing. More importantly, it was what I needed — a reminder that my life extends beyond these same four walls.

In the end, we made it a family affair. For the first time since the pandemic started, my parents and I had an outing. I wore clothes — real clothes, not just pajamas. My dad braved the mall for his two favorite girls, all so we could peruse our local bookstore. We came home with bags of treats, including cookies, cinnamon rolls, and of course, books.

Bookstores have always been healing for me. Coffee shops, restaurants — most venues are so loud and chaotic it can be overwhelming. But bookstores are quiet. Calm. They’re the perfect place to lose yourself. And as an aspiring author, they also help with motivation.

It can be easy to forget what you’re working toward, especially in the middle of revisions. But when you’re surrounded by stories of all shapes and sizes, you can’t help but remember why you fell in love with writing in the first place.

My afternoon at the bookstore was exactly that: a reminder. For the first time in a long while, I felt at peace.

Then I was interrupted.

You must first understand that I was feeling pretty good about myself. I wasn’t just in my element, weaving between aisles like a pro, I was also giddy, high on the knowledge that I was Twitter mutuals with some of these authors. My hair was flat, and my fingers were damn near frozen to my joystick, but I was happy. I like to think my expression reflected that.

It must not have, though, because while I was scanning a BookTok display, an elderly man with a tote bag of books came up to me.

“Hello,” he said.

I blinked. Smiled. Minnesotans are notoriously friendly. I told myself that was all it was as I returned his greeting.

“I will pray for you,” he said slowly, enunciating each word.

My heart sank.

People with visible disabilities will recognize this exchange. It is, unfortunately, a frequent occurrence — complete strangers will go out of their way to bestow their kindhearted blessings on us poor, miserable folk. Sometimes it’s prayer. Sometimes it’s a souvenir, some cheap trinket for which I have no use. Most times, it’s accompanied with the best of intentions.

It makes me want to scream.

Later, when I told my parents what had happened, my dad clicked his tongue. “He was just being nice,” he said, to which I bit my lip. Of course he was! I know in my heart of hearts that he meant well. I appreciate the thought, just as I appreciate his prayers.

That doesn’t change the fact that it makes me uneasy.

It’d perhaps be different if I were advocating, protesting, or visibly struggling. If it’s below freezing and my wheelchair is stuck in a snowdrift, I will take whatever you have to offer, prayers included. But I was just living, wandering the aisles of a bookstore, content in my bubble of literary bliss.

I didn’t need this man’s prayers. What I needed was to be treated like everyone else in that bookstore.

I didn’t know what to say, so I stuck with what is tried and true: I thanked him and walked away.

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Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

Comments

Claire Richmond avatar

Claire Richmond

Wow. This is a transporting, powerful piece. When I read to the part with the stranger's greeting, immediately my stomach dropped. Even the best of intentions can be ableism. Thank you for bringing awareness to this issue, although I wish you didn't have to deal with it at all!

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Brianna Albers avatar

Brianna Albers

Thanks, Claire!

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