We were in Kansas City a few weeks ago, and among other things, we had an opportunity to visit Kansas City's Swope Park Zoo.
(An aside, those of you who like zoos should visit this one.)
I've used a wheelchair for more than five decades. I garnered the looks, the stares, the questions—all of the human interaction possible as we rolling monuments to fate make our journey through this world. All of them, I thought, until that day.
I was waiting for the rest of my family to finish with an exhibit when a man wearing a cap identifying him as a veteran of the Vietnam War walked by, reached out, grabbed my hand, and said "Thank you."
There's a such a thing as stolen valor—someone in uniform wearing badges and medals never earned—but I wasn't. The only thing I was wearing was a wheelchair, and a gray beard that might suggest I am of an age to have served in Vietnam.
I didn't. I've never been in the military.
I shook his hand. And said nothing.
It only occurred to me a few moments later that he might have thought I was a veteran, an injured one at that.
That made me sad. I don't know why. Perhaps there's a part of me who wishes I'd seen the elephant. I know there's a part of me that thinks be crippled by polio seems so capricious, so arbitrary, so useless.