It’s funny how life’s small gestures of kindness can be taken in different ways. The other day, a family member and I cleaned the ice off the driveway of a neighbor while he was away. Over the past year my neighbor, Tom, has become more disabled due to his diabetes and eye troubles. A year ago he was walking fine, you wouldn’t have known anything was wrong. Tom was the picture of a person with a hidden disability. Now he’s walking hunched over using a walker and has already taken a few serious falls. Clearing his own driveway of Minnesota’s inevitable winter droppings has become a very difficult chore.
The following day we stopped by to ask if he wanted any more help clearing the rest of the driveway, he replied, “Between the job I did yesterday and the ice melting on its own, I don’t need any help.” He did not even realize that we had spent the previous afternoon cleaning his driveway.
Why is it that people react differently to having help offered? Some people come to grips with their disability while others struggle to prove their independence. Throughout my life many people have offered me help in many ways; holding a door when I’m using my walker, if I’m asked a question and the person doesn’t understand my speech, someone will ask if they can repeat my answer. I’ve always felt that if the offer made life easier, then why not accept the offer? I realize that some people may think if they accept the help, then they are accepting charity or are proclaiming their own inabilities. Quite honestly, I see the offer as just the opposite; I’m out leading a full life and everyone at sometime needs assistance, regardless of age or ability. Aren’t we all dependent on the help of others? I always feel better after helping someone; why not let someone else get the good feeling of being able to help me?
Other issues remain, of course. At what point is help accepted or not? And how do you acknowledge the offer? If you would rather not have assistance from someone, just politely say “No, thank you.” But remember, there is no shame or harm in getting help to make life easier.