An Australian mom named Justine Van Den Borne was out shopping with her daughter. When she was 35, Justine was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, which is a degenerative illness that slowly degrades the lining around the nerve cells in your brain and spine. Many people who have MS end up in a wheelchair eventually, but the progression of the disease is different for everyone. You might not be able to tell someone has it by looking at them (like many diseases actually), and even someone standing on their feet could be in significant pain.
When Justine came back to her car, she found a message from some brave soul asking, "Did you forget your wheelchair???" Since the anonymous questioner had fled the scene, Justine decided to write this open letter on Facebook:
To person that left this on my car last week at Mitcham Shopping Centre- I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was 35. Not just MS but the worst one that never goes away and is slowly crippling my life. My kids have had to deal with things that kids shouldn't ever have to deal with and all of our futures are forever changed. On the day you saw me I was having a good day, I was walking with my daughter unaided having a nice day. Thank you for ruining that. You made me feel like people were looking at me, the exact way I feel when I can't walk properly. I am sick of people like yourself abusing me on my good days for using a facility I am entitled to. A disability doesn't always mean a person has to be wheelchair bound but lucky for you I one day will be. Right now my focus is to walk into my best friends wedding next September and not have to be pushed. I will be 42. Before you ruin another persons day remember you don't know everything and just because you can't see it it doesn't mean a person isn't struggling to put one foot in front of the other.
Justine's message has been shared over 14,000 times and she's gotten a lot of support. It's impossible to know if the person who left the note is disabled themselves and needed the spot, or some able-bodied jerk who likes to monitor other people's lives, but everyone can take a lesson from Justine's story: you can't tell how hard it is for someone to walk through life by looking at them.