The Top 10 Thoughts I Have When I See Someone Who Looks Like Me

September 21, 2015 — 13 Comments

The other day my son and I were getting groceries and as we walked toward the orange juice we saw a guy about my age who had an arm just like mine. Once we passed him, we looked at each other and smiled and Sam said to me, “Dad, I know what you were thinking.” “Oh, yeah?” I said.

“Yeah,” he said and then dramatically pronounced, “I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE!!!” while holding his fist in the air.

We laughed super hard because that’s not what I was thinking at all, of course, but it did get me thinking about how I really do react when I see someone else with one hand. This is basically how it goes:

  1. Nice! One hand.
  2. Was that head-nod too obnoxious?
  3. Should I go say hello?
  4. Should I give him a Living One-Handed card?
  5. Would that be weird?
  6. Crap, now he’s past me and I missed my opportunity.
  7. Should I go after him?
  8. Will that scare him?
  9. Am I about to get arrested?
  10. Can I survive in jail?

As you can see, it’s a rather stressful situation!

The truth is, I never used to notice people with one hand. I’m convinced it was because my own one-handedness was never in the forefront of my mind. But, once I started the website, I suddenly noticed all the time! I imagine it’s like when you buy a car, say a Toyota Camry, and then all you see are Toyota Camrys on the road.

Typically I don’t approach people with one hand, just as I don’t approach people just because they have brown hair or blue eyes. I’m naturally an introvert, too, so approaching strangers isn’t my strong suit anyway. That said, if the opportunity presents itself and it doesn’t seem super awkward, I might say hello and tell them about the website. And now with Different Is Awesome! being out, I can bring that up pretty easily if I happen to be around the parents of a child with one hand, or any physical difference, really.

My kids always run up to tell me whenever they see someone with one hand and it’s adorable. I love that they are aware and excited about what I do and that its removed any fear they have about someone with one hand. When we were in Ohio this year for the Helping Hands Midwest picnic, the man at the front desk of our hotel had a limb-difference and do you know how I knew that? Each of my kids went to the lobby to get breakfast at different times and each of them returned to excitedly tell me about him. As we checked out I mentioned it to him and he thought it was hilarious and we had a nice short discussion about the picnic, which he hadn’t heard of.

Ultimately, I notice people with one hand more now than I did before, but for the most part I don’t do anything but that…notice it.

And sometimes yell, “I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE!!!”

If you’re an adult with a limb-difference and you see someone else like you, how do you react? If you’re a parent and you see another child who looks like yours, do you seek out the parents? Share your experience in the comments!


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I'm a husband, a father, an author, a speaker, a friend...all kinds of things, actually.

13 responses to The Top 10 Thoughts I Have When I See Someone Who Looks Like Me

  1. my husband and I were actually just talking about this. We were recently in a hotel when an older gentleman with a prosthetic leg got on the elevator with us. Our son (almost 2 who was born missing his right arm from the elbow down) was looking at him. He commented about his leg and said how one day my son might have a prosthetic too. He was very nice and friendly. But we didn’t really know how to react. We don’t want to draw attention to it (the her person’s difference), but at the same time is it kind of like we are a part of the same “club” and it is ok to ask questions, etc?

    • Even I am one-handed, I always feel surprised. I do not honestly try to talk to them but when they notice me, I smiled like saying “here we are fellow, lets set the example.”.

  2. At first we just silently noticed, but as our Sam has gotten older we’ve been more out-going. And from that out-going-ness we’ve built a local “club” of Limb Different Kids that hang out once a month or so.

  3. haha this is spot on, I react the same way. I never usually say anything because I never know who will take offense to it but then I always sort of regret it after I’ve missed my opportunity!

  4. If I see another limb different child I do approach the parents to see if they know about Camp No Limits, the area Scottish Rite hospital, etc. I have learned that a lot of parents don’t know about the resources out there.

  5. We often will go up and say hi but we always ask our son if he wants to first. I feel like it’s pretty connecting. Glad to hear you talk about this because your list always runs in my head first before I ultimately decide to say hello!

  6. I always get that spark of recognition when I see someone with a limb difference! I try to be respectful, because my difference is congenital, and I know that my coping is very different than someone who lost a limb later in life. Having said that, when I suss out that it’s something they’re okay talking about, I do enjoy having a little ‘secret handshake’ (ha!) sort of conversation.

  7. When Hayden was only days old, (totally surprised by his little hand at birth) we met a checkout girl at our local Walmart who had a little hand too. If we hadn’t spoke to her about it, we never would have known about all the different Facebook groups out there to support families. So now, when I see children in public, I sometimes quietly approach the parents and have a little chat. I tell them about groups and websites like yours, if they haven’t heard.

  8. As an adult with one hand, I always say something is I spot a child with one hand. I remember meeting grown ups with one hand when I was little – made my day. The parents typically thank me or hug me, then ask lots of questions.

  9. When I see a person with an upper limb “issue” I smile, wave my nub, and walk over to them as if I already knew them. I’ve always been a bit of a social butterfly, so approaching anyone at any age has never been an issue. Not once in my life has anyone turned away or acted shy.

    If you are shy, or even a bit awkward, it’s easy to speak with someone once you’ve found a common ground. In these cases, you’ve already found it.

  10. I was born one handed (stops at the left wristy-area) and whenever I see someone new whose limb different (mostly hand/arm) I get excited in a weird way. Like, oh, cool, another one! I wonder if they were born that way? Whats it like for them?

    And then I keep walking. I’m always so awkward about it. And I think I stare a bit, and then have to question myself, “its not like you don’t see your own stumpy every day, get over it” haha.

    I live in a small town and know of 3-4 arm/hand amputees and one born one handed like me. Recently a customer of mine lost his hand in a car accident and after the initial shock and ‘so glad you’re okay’ we were able to talk a bit about it. It’s encouraged me to get my own limb different blog started as I’m not aware of a large community for limb difference in Aus like there seems to be in the US,

  11. The first time I REMEMBER seeing someone who was limb different ( love that!!) I was in Krogers, I was 17, now 50(!). I was standing at the end of the aisle with my left arm, missing 3 inches below my elbow, facing away from the registers. This lady walked by me, same arm with the same length, with a ketchup bottle tucked under her left arm, carrying milk in her hand. I smiled a little and thought ” That poor woman, how sad”. Them I thought “OH MY GOSH!! That’s ME, now I know why some people look at me with pity!! I did the SAME THING!!” Well the lady can’t see my missing limb, all she sees is this teenager looking at her with a sad , pitying smile!! She glared at me and walked away. I was so embarrassed so
    I didn’t run after her to explain but I was more understanding when people stared for a second , or smiled that pity smile… But not ALLWAYS !!! LOL!! I don’t SEE myself as missing an arm.

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