running dream by wendelin van draanen living with disability

The Real Rosa
In the book The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen, the main character Jessica is trying to adjust to a new life without one of her legs. Another character, Rosa, helps her through this while facing a disability of her own. Rosa was born with cerebral palsy. Even though some people don’t take the time to really get to know her, she has some great qualities that should make people want to. In the book, Rosa gets those close to her to see her real self instead of just seeing her as the girl in the wheelchair that has trouble talking. She manages this through using some of her best qualities: her friendliness, joy in helping others, and optimism.

Even when others are not friendly to her, Rosa seems to be friendly to them. The book really shows this first hand through her notes to Jessica, and the time she takes to tutors others in her math class. When Jessica is in a wheelchair, and asked to sit in the back of the room with Rosa, Rosa was open and friendly to her. Her notes help Jessica through the mental portion of her rehabilitation whether they were questions, quotes, girl talk, or just words that made her think. Rosa’s notes have such an effect on Jessica that she saves them because she can’t seem to bear to throw them away. For example, in one note conversation they have, Jessica brings up her concerns about how the running leg might just be a pipe dream. Rosa then passes her a note that reads, “So was walking.” In The Running Dream, Rosa tutors two of her classmates. First, she tutors her new friend Jessica, then a boy in their class after Jessica encourages him to ask her for help. Jessica even gets the highest math test score she has ever gotten! Over all, Rosa’s friendliness and openness to others may have been her best trait.

Rosa’s joy in helping others helps her connect to others at her school. This mainly happens with her tutoring. In the book, when Jessica is sitting in the back of the math class with her, Rosa realizes that Jessica is having trouble with her work. After Jessica realizes that her friend Fiona doesn’t have time to help her, she goes to Rosa for help. They end up going over to Rosa’s house to snack and study, and actually end up having a good time together. As it says on the book, “Not only does Rosa come to Jessica’s rescue in math, she also helps her reach for a future that is full of unexpected opportunities.” Though their friendship is rooted in the tutoring early on, it leads to much more. Later on a boy that sits in front of them in math is shocked to see their good grades when he does badly. Rosa ends up helping him over lunch in room 402. Helping the others really seemed to make Rosa happy.

Even throughout all of her struggles, Rosa maintains an upbeat attitude. Her optimism is so great, it even seems to rub off on Jessica. Rosa has had her condition her whole life, while Jessica has only had hers for a short time, yet Rosa is still happier. Rosa’s positive outlook eventually helps Jessica to feel better about herself and her own condition. When Jessica sees how Rosa views things, she begins to see some of the flaws in her own point of view. Rosa’s optimism also makes her strong. Just as in Jessica’s thought in the book, “If the mind’s not strong, the body acts weak, even if it’s not. If the mind says it’s too cold or too rainy or too windy to run, the body will be more than happy to agree. If the mind says it would be better to rest or recover or cut practice, the body will be glad to oblige,” Rosa’s optimism brings a strength to her mind and body that she needs to live. This strength is what shows that she is living, not just surviving.

What Rosa really wants from people is for them to see her as a person, not a disability. In response to people’s views of her, she finds a way to communicate with others without them being able to see her disability with online communities. There she could be herself without people judging her for her condition. Rosa really craved for people in the real world to do the same. By the end of the book, some of her best qualities shine and help her to achieve that dream to an extent. She ends up getting friends to see the real Rosa by just being herself.

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