I know it’s a little late (or early) for a blog post but I’m still working off the late afternoon coffee I had after my lung function test on Tuesday.
I was recounting something to my friend at my appointment that happened to me this weekend. I thought maybe sharing this & another associated story might help people with some compassion & understanding of why even if someone has a limitation they are still a person whose space & wishes should be respected at all times & in all places…
I was in my local ShopRite. I was getting ready to check out. I had a basket of coffee & a few other small things. I was in the self check-out bagging & swiping when all of a sudden I just felt “watched.” I look over & here’s this lady bent over in front of me.
I asked politely but somewhat firmly (because I was taken by surprise), “What are you doing?” She said very matter-of-factly, “Helping you. Tying your shoe.”
Now, my first instinct is was to retort something like “No offense, but you’re not my mom. I am not 5. I may be on oxygen but I can tie my shoe.”
In fact, I was planning to make my way over to a bench after I checked out to do it before I went out to my car. (I like putting my foot up that way before I even needed oxygen. I just find it more comfortable in general.) I know disabled or not people always make it their business for some reason to point out (in the most awkward times & places) things like these things. They also act like it is their business & tend to make a bigger deal out of it than it really is.
I could tell she wasn’t budging & was kind of taken aback that I actually said something. I said, “No, Thanks. I can do it myself.”
I had to set everything down, stop what I was doing, & tie it then & there. Until it was sufficiently tied, she didn’t step back, either. It was a waste of everyone’s time & was extremely uncomfortable.
Now, what really upset me was that she didn’t even ask permission first. Didn’t bother saying “Is it ok if I help you with your shoelace because it’s untied?” or “Do you know your shoelace is untied? Do you need help at all?”
She just came up in my space & said nothing as I was doing something else. To me, that’s creepy behavior. It is an invasion of space & privacy.
Really, how does it affect her when I’m going about my business & checking out? It’s not her shoelace, she’s a stranger. I don’t know her. I may be on oxygen but I can still do things for myself.
Outlining this scenario now maybe you can see why I understand why people in wheelchairs are taken aback when people lean on them, hug them, push their chairs, or touch them without asking permission or saying anything.
That chair is their space. It is to be respected just like any part of our own bodies. (Don’t encroach where you’re not welcome.) Just like you wouldn’t want to be manhandled, neither does anyone else, disabled or not.
The same personal boundaries we set for ourselves should naturally be extended to the disabled. It’s not cool to just go around touching anyone, period, without their permission, at any time or any place.
I related immediately to this story when I came across it tonight. This woman is being regarded as a hero when she overtly overruled the veteran’s wishes several times when he refused her assistance.
She talked over him & then pushed his wheelchair (without his consent) into a store.
The point being, this man made it clear he didn’t want help & she took it upon herself to do so anyway & is being applauded for it.
When really, what she did was violate this man’s personal space, wishes, & his property without his consent. There is no heroism in this.
Now, some may disagree – but think about this.
If someone came up to you, started touching you & talked over you after you told them to “Go Away!” How would you feel about that? Probably pretty violated & gross.
At least you might have the chance to run or walk away from them, maybe. This man couldn’t get away from her.
If someone asks for help, that’s one thing.
But unsolicited “help” like I received & this veteran received is not true help. It’s actually not something that should be done & makes no one feel good in the end run.
In the past, my friends & I always left it up to our disabled friends to let us know when they needed or wanted help with something. We tended not to broadcast it or make a big deal out of providing a small amount of assistance when asked either.
We’re friends. Friends ask friends for help with things sometimes. It’s not a big deal or something that should be “pimped” for an opportunity for a bit of viral notoriety.
I can now feel how much my disabled friends must have cringed each time when people would touch their chairs, their arm or other body parts, or try to climb on the back of their wheelchair without permission. Or the countless other rude things that people do without giving thought to it, all under the guise of “offering help”.