This friend is one of the few able-bodied people I know who describes herself as a TAB person, a realization that came about as a result of her experiences with increasingly aged parents and others. While most people see this only in the abstract and ignore it until a mental or physical change occurs, my friend has willingly and I think pragmatically, embraced it.
She is also not shy or reluctant around my wheelchair and has spoken publicly about issues of disability in her own family. Her ability to calmly deal with whatever presents itself and to sincerely accept her friends for who and how they are is a rarity in a world that regards disability with responses ranging from pity or ignorance to hostility.
Most of us have also been subjected to some variation of inspiration porn, that insidious abelist ideology that paints persons with disabilities as (insert desired hyperbolic adjectives here) so that the more able-bodied persons making the declaration can continue to feel lucky, superior, charitable or good-hearted. A variation of this occurred when months ago a member of my small Reform congregation told me that he was getting points from God for helping me and others. I find this offensive for a variety of reasons not the least of which is because he is putting a narcissistic twist on a valuable Jewish teaching which commands us to repair the world and help others. The notion of points from an old man in the sky is purely his own and something I hold no truck with.
My friend, who belongs to the same congregation, chalks this up to degrees of needing to fill needed and mental illness. She is able to deal with him in ways I simply cannot. I have chosen to distance myself from this attitude, and various people in my congregation who hold it. I am not a project, an object of pity or scorn. I am simply a person as is she.
When on Friday evening I say Kaddish with my friend and her family for her mother, I will not be sitting there thinking about what a good person I am to show up for my friend or whether others think me a good person for being there with her. I will instead be thinking about the woman who raised my friend and gifted her daughter with an immense spirit and the security of knowing who she is and what she is about. I will abide with my friend through this loss and her grief because to do so is a privilege born of respect and care. That is what friends do.