Gilbert: Man on Wheels

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May 18, 2013 by genelup

He may be a curiosity; he may remind you of a tragedy
He may have unusual priorities
But he is not a spectacle, he’s not on parade

These words were penned by Gilbert John, a Navajo who lives in Gallup, New Mexico.  He is a quadriplegic.

He may take longer to get ready
He may take longer getting there
But he gets there all the same

I met Gilbert last weekend at the Book Fair in Albuquerque.  His table was next to mine. He has just enough strength in his right hand to control the knobs to move his electric-powered, four-wheeled wheelchair.  He doesn’t have enough strength to lift his arm to feed himself.

It was an accident
The ordinary, everyday, unexpected
unpredicted mind twist of fate

He was 17 when the accident happened, sending him to a life in a wheelchair.  He scoots around at will, forward, backward and a sharp turn to face you.  While I sat on a hard, straight-backed chair, Gilbert pushed a knob and his seat went back, his legs went up and he was laying comfortably taking a nap.

He may sometimes hold a distant stare
Which you may think must be depression
Don’t be fooled, he’s thinking, thinking just like you do
He thinks, feels, dreams, does and doesn’t

People stopped at his table.  They picked up this poem he had published to give to visitors.  Copies of his book entitled Unbroken Spirit were on the table for sale.  It is an inspiring story about the human ability to overcome tremendous odds, and about the importance of never accepting others’ limited estimations of your potential.

And will and won’t with all the weakness and all the virtues of any human being.
He’s unique but hardly “special” anyways,
He’s just your average, run of the outback wheelchair rider
a 4×4 extreme, hill-climbing, rez-rider on wheels.

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