The gift of perspective

Tina Norris was doing the dishes, an average household chore made challenging because she has cerebral palsy.

Meanwhile, she was talking to me about her childhood and the fears her mom had that she would be bullied by other children.

Then she stopped and said, “You know what? I envy you.”

I immediately felt sympathy. I considered all the reasons she might be envious.

But because I’ve been trying to learn more about Tina and the way she thinks, I just asked her: “Why?”

“Your red hair. I always wanted red hair.”

I covered up my surprise by explaining I just got it dyed a few months ago.

I was embarrassed because — even after getting to know this inspirational woman in the last few months — I had figured her envy would be connected to her disability and my lack of one.

And that’s what a lot of people do when they meet Tina and her husband, Bob, who live in Millvale.

They assume because of how their disabilities affect their outward appearance and capabilities that their internal thoughts, feelings and desires are also different than those of people without disabilities.

I got to know the couple while I was preparing to write a profile of them. Pittsburgh photographer Martha Rial came to PublicSource with the idea of photographing a couple who are both disabled and what their successes and challenges are like.

They are just like you and your spouse or significant other in so many ways.

Don't miss the story:

PA couple lives with love and disability

The Norrises are unique for many reasons, one being that they both have cerebral palsy.

They’ve been married for 22 years.

Read the full story >>

But somehow they are also more considerate and insightful than most non-disabled people I’ve encountered.

They adjust how they shop so as not to hold up anyone else in line. They never hold back a smile to a stranger. And when I canceled a meeting with them because I was sick, I had a voicemail of good wishes from Bob waiting for me at work.

Tina and Bob just don’t take anything for granted. They often say their lives turned out pretty close to perfect. They receive help, but they don’t take it unless they absolutely need it.

Tina showed that ferocity for independence when she wouldn’t accept a ride to work from Martha and me and instead walked to the bus stop in pouring rain.

Meeting the Norrises just before the turn of a new year gave me a fresh perspective on how I want to approach life and treat those around me in 2014 and beyond.