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Thank you but.

Thank You BUT I worry a lot. I fear the postage stamp may come off the letter before it reaches its destination. And when I drop a letter in the corner mailbox, I worry that the letter may have, in some mysterious way, gotten stuck to the top of the box and not dropped in, so I always check to make sure.

But now that I have MS, I have graduated to a different set of worries. I find that most of my worries now center on, believe it or not, the desire of other people to help.

Back at the beginning of this battle with MS, when I was using a cane, I learned to race people to the door because I found that most strangers watching me limp across the parking lot congenially sprinted to the door (usually after I had opened it) and immediately pushed it out of my hand, got their feet in the way of my progress, and sometimes, as I reached for the second door directly ahead of me, shoved that one out of my grasp, too!

I began to find most public doors were obstacle courses and the eagerness of well-meaning people sources of worry. I solved that problem, in part, by waiting just outside the door for the hurrying, panting stranger to catch up to me, then giving kind but careful instructions on how to "help me." Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn't. Depended on the stranger, the clarity of my instructions, and the circumstances at the time.

But seeing a stranger rapidly approaching to help is a plus. It's the unseen stranger appearing from no-where that poses the biggest worry. Many times as I have been cautiously and carefully pushing open a heavy door, with my cane firmly planted on the pavement for balance, and my leaning body using the heavy door for needed support, a long arm unexpectedly has shot out from behind me. With an encouraging "I'll help you with that, lady," my support-door has been quickly pushed away, throwing me off balance. This either catapults me awkwardly into the building or sends me sprawling on to the pavement. I have considered hanging a large placard on my back advising, "Do not help this person!" -- but somehow that seems rude.

Now that my condition has progressed to using a walker with two front wheels, I find that I have inherited a new set of worries. I trust the wheels. But other people don't. I trust the wheels because I know that the rear rubber-tipped legs of the walker will grip the pavement or floor and hold the walker steady. Friends and strangers see only the wheels. And, of course, they reason, wheels move, don't they? Often as I swing the walker down over the curb carefully, right on target to I can steady myself on it the very moment the rubber-tipped legs touch the side-walk as I step off the curb, a worried, extremely anxious passerby will frantically stretch out a hand and lay it on the walker (while it is still in mid-air). This impedes its progress, interrupts my motion, and destroys my balance! And what do I do? I thank them! Yes, I have learned to hide my sense of frustration. . .irritation. Even in restaurants where there is usually no such thing as entering unobtrusively, much as I'd like to.

There is one restaurant in town in particular that heralds my arrival with so much "frantically-concerned" fanfare that personal privacy is an impossibility. They see me approaching slowly. From a long way off they see me. The waitress immediately drops whatever she is doing and rushes to the door, opens it widely, prematurely, and holds it open -- which is a mistake. It takes me a long time to get to that wide-open door which lets the air-conditioned air out in July, the hot air in during August, the flies in during summer, the snow in during winter, the heavy street dust in through June. Psychlogically it puts pressure on me to hurry. And I don't hurry well.

All eyes are focused on the door when I finally do enter with my friend. After all, they've been "waiting" for me quite a while! And altough there is plenty of room for my walker to pass, diners in that restaurant suddenly leap to their feet, move tables and scrape their many chairs "out of the way!" What a hubbub! I feel annoyance. But then I remember that I am a Christian. And in the Bible Jesus tells us that, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35.) And these people are giving, after all -- their attention, their concern, even their misguided attempts to help. Why should I cheat them of this blessing? It would be easier, I admit, to be on the giving end of life instead of on the receiving end all the time. But I am giving, too, in a sense by letting them give to me. These are confusing thoughts perhaps, but they have helped me through these chaotic scenes.

Then I had an experience one day that finally set my world in proper perspective.

My husband had let me out of the car to wait for him in front of the doctor's office while he parked the car in an adjacent parking lot. The Florida sun was very hot that day and, apparently, he was having difficulty finding a parking spot. Beside the docto's building I notice a shady spot where I could wait more comfortably, but I'd have to step up over a curb to get there. By this time in the cane phase of MS, I had learned to call on strangers for help -- even if I had some silent reservations.

Inoticed an elderly man and woman approaching. He looked strong enough to take my hand and pull me up over the curb. I waited until they were right in front of me, then looking directly into his smiling face, I asked, "Would you please give me a hand and help me up over this curb?" It was then that I noticed that he had no hands! Both hands had been amputated at the wrists. In fact, the stubs were wrapped in fresh bandages and I realized he had just returned from a doctor's office.

I recall stading there in the hot Florida sunshine, thinking to myself, "Over five billion people in the world, and here you are, Dot, asking a man with no hands to 'give you a hand'"!

Looking back on it, I realize we could have handled the awkward situation in two ways. I could have apologized, "Oh, I'm so sorry I asked you! I'll ask someone else!" That approach would have embarrassed him and made him feel useless. Or he, when being asked to do something impossible to do, could have retorted with frustrated anger, "Lady, can't you see I have no hands?" and stomped off in rage. That would have ruined his day. And mine.

Instead, he continued to smile at me and said matter-of-factly, "Well, I don't have any hands, but I do have a strong forearm which you can grasp."

And I said, "Well, I don't have strong legs, but I do have grit and determination so you pull, and I'll lift my legs the best I can, and together we can get me over this curb."

So he pulled and I lifted, and we got me over the curb and parted with an air of triump. That day was special. It reinforced my belief in essential goodness in people and in the importance of using whatever each one of us, abled or disabled, has to help each other.
COPYRIGHT 1990 National Multiple Sclerosis Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:unsolicited assistance for the handicapped
Author:Kidney, Dorothy Boone
Publication:Inside MS
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Words:1287
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