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Learn from the surfer

I have realized lately that as I get older, I do not take things for granted anymore. I think I started to notice this when I first heard about Bethany Hamilton.

Hamilton lost her arm from a shark bite when she was surfing at Kauai’s North Shore in October. She’s only 13 — years old, but at the time of the attack, she was considered one of the top amateur surfers in the world and had multiple sponsorships. She was expected to go pro in the near future.

I was raised on the East coast of Florida in a really small beach town. The only way you would find it is if you looked on a map of Florida and stuck your finger on Cape Canaveral. It’s literally twenty minutes south of where the shuttle goes off.

I grew up in an area where shark bites were the norm. Famous surfers like Kelly Slater and C.J. Hobgood were considered “locals,” and if you didn’t own at least two pairs of “baggies” or understand the phrase “waist high and glassy,” then you weren’t in touch with things.

However, of all the surfers I’ve known, none of them were missing an arm. But to be perfectly honest, had they lost an arm at the age of 13, I’m not so sure that they would have gotten back onto the horse, so to speak. Most people probably would have lost all hope and never returned to the water again in fear of another Jaws run-in.

Hamilton returned to competitive surfing in January. That’s what, three months after she was mauled? That attitude is awfully impressive.

I have known many people that are considered disabled. I can remember when I was in junior high school, there was a boy named Scott who was blind. He walked five blocks to school everyday — alone. And from what my sisters who were in classes with him told me, he was a 4.0 student. I’m not even that motivated.

My mom is a speech and language pathologist. She meets and works with people from all walks of life and with all sorts of impairments. When I was a little girl, I would go with her to some of the specialty schools for medically fragile children. I met some of the brightest and sweetest children ever. Regardless of the fact that they were plugged in to all kinds of machines and they took a little longer to form their sentences, they were kids just like me. All they wanted to do was play. And as an energetic six-year-old, I was more than happy to comply.

I’m not trying to depress Oracle readers, but I mean honestly, stop and think about all of the things we do on a day-to-day basis. We breathe. We walk. We talk. We eat. What would you do if you depended on a respirator, a wheelchair, sign language or a feeding-tube?

I’m not exactly sure where I am going with this, except to maybe make readers a little more aware of the person’s toes they may be stepping on. Key word: person.

I was in the Tampa Room of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center last week and I witnessed two guys literally push a girl in a wheelchair out of the way so they could cut in line in front of her.

Give me a break.

Are they that much better than her because she sits in a wheelchair? Apparently they are not. Who has more of the disability, the girl who can’t walk or the guys who lack basic human compassion?

I’m not saying you should baby a person with a handicap, or even go out of your way to make sure they know you feel sorry for them. They are people, and they want to be treated as such. And apparently from the “gentlemen” in the Tampa Room, it isn’t the people with canes and chairs and respirators that are the only ones with handicaps.

Shannon McPherson is a junior majoring in public relations and an Oracle opinion editor.,/B>