I’m Not Comfortable with That
Despite the negative stories and events that are reported each day, I have found overall that most people are helpful and willing to lend a hand when asked. As a quadriplegic, I am often out in public alone and if I drop my mug, pen, or utensil and need to ask someone to pick it up. I usually get an automatic yes. In some cases, individuals notice that I have dropped something and ask if I need help. People are often willing to help me grab my credit card to pay and bring my food, drink or other necessary items to the table when I have ordered at a restaurant. And in my own neighborhood, where I am a “regular,” the drycleaner knows how to hang items on the back of my chair; the personnel at CVS know exactly how to help me get my items, check out and hang the bags on my chair so they don’t fall or rip; and almost all of the businesses that I frequent know that they need to open the door when I am leaving if there is no automatic door (of course I would love it if every commercial door was automatic!).
Another common occurrence for me where I often need to ask for assistance is when I am driving my wheelchair and fall over to the right or left side. In most cases, I have enough strength to pull myself upright. But on occasion, I need someone to push my shoulder to give me a little help. If I am bent over to the side I am unable to drive my chair and am pretty much stuck. A few weeks ago, I was going down the street right near my house and was about to turn to cross the street. I fell over to the left. I was safe as I was at the corner and it was a busy street where many people were crossing. The first person that I saw was a young male, probably in his 20s, carrying a bag that looked like a lunch that he purchased. I said, “excuse me” and asked if he would help push my left shoulder so that I could sit up. To my surprise he said, “I am not comfortable with that.” He then crossed the street and walked along. I was rather shocked. Quite frankly, individuals that are not comfortable helping usually don’t answer. But he answered and was very upfront.
Within a few minutes, a family with adult children walked across the street. I again asked for help and one of the women said “of course” and came right over and helped me sit up. She then asked if I needed anything else. I thanked her and told her that I was okay and proceeded along my way. I couldn’t help but think about what had just occurred. Why was the first individual uncomfortable? Was it because he was male? Was it because I was wearing a tank top and he would be touching the bear skin on my shoulder? Was a woman more inclined to help me? And if so, why? My mind was busy processing this occurrence.
I told my husband about the exchanges and he did not really have an immediate reaction one way or the other. It seemed that I was overthinking what had occurred. I realize that I should accept that some people aren’t comfortable doing certain things and it is better for them to say it than to ignore the request. As far as the gender issue, maybe that was a part of it, but I had no way of making a fair determination. And because of that, I realize that I shouldn’t make any judgment.
I will still ask people to help. It is a fact of my life. And I am thankful that most times when I make a request, the individual I ask is more than willing to assist. But I should be more open to understanding that some individuals, for whatever reason, may not be comfortable. And that is okay. I won’t judge. And I will just ask the next person.