Breaking the Rules

0 comments Posted on September 1, 2016

by Jen Bricker

God’s path for me has been filled with obstacles and roadblocks. I’d be lying if I told you I’ve tackled each one with grace. Some have tried me to the point of fury and exhaustion. Some still do. Because of who I am, how I look, how people perceive me to be, I know there will always be walls to break down. I learned that lesson very young. When I was in fifth grade, my parents took me to a theme park about an hour and a half away from our house. I was so excited! Everyone in my family was a roller-coaster junkie, and I’d never been on one. I’d been waiting and waiting for that day.

When I remember the day, it’s as if I’m watching it play back in slow motion: getting out of the car and rolling up to the ticket booth in my wheelchair, then climbing out and strapping myself into this pendulum-like ride that pitched you around in a circle.

I pulled down the harness and watched the guy running the ride watching me. Then he got on his radio and called someone else over—his supervisor or a park manager. They whispered, they stared at me, they whispered some more.

“I’m sorry,” he said, walking over to my row of seats. “You have to be a certain height to ride this ride.”

EverythingIsPossibleTranslation: “get off.” I get that the guy was doing his job and following the park rules, but the rules were wrong. My parents exploded. They were livid, more livid than I’ve ever seen them in my life.

“How dare you!” my dad said, getting right in the guy’s face. “Are you kidding me?” he shouted at the employee.

We were now all making a huge scene. But no matter how hard any of us argued, pleaded, sobbed, there was no budging the park staff. In the end, they gave us back our money, and we left in a huff.

“They don’t know you,” my father tried to reassure me. “They don’t know how strong you are and what you can do—or they’d know how ridiculous these rules are.”

I sat silently in the backseat, trying not to cry. I was just so disappointed and stunned. All my life, I’d never accepted the word can’t. Now here was someone telling me “you can’t,” and there was nothing any of us could do about it. It shook me to my core. Had my parents been wrong all along? Were there some things in my life that I would never be able to do?

The way my parents handled it next was spectacular. My mom got on the phone with our state representative and told him, “There are laws that are wrong, and we need to do something about them.” She called OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Then she got on the phone with theme park after theme park, educating them. In order to meet the height requirement for a ride, I would have to strap on prosthetics that would not be safe on a high-speed thrill ride. The safety belt would hold me just fine at the height I was at. I wasn’t the only one missing limbs who wanted to ride a coaster. Why should anyone have to miss out?

I think back to that day in fifth grade and realize my dad could have simply said, “Jennifer, the man said no, so no it is.” Plenty of my friends grew up being told “rules are rules” and not to challenge authority. But that’s not how my parents raised me. I was raised to be fierce, to fight the good fight nobly and with conviction. Today you may not win; tomorrow you may not win. But down the road will be one small victory that can change everything.

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