Farnborough Air Day 1992: It was the biggest air show in Europe, apparently. It was scorching hot and had been for most of the summer. I was still in hospital after my accident 6 months previously, which left me in a wheelchair permanently. It was my first day trip out of hospital and my first experience being in my wheelchair in busy surroundings.
The first thing that became apparent, and which I still don’t understand today, was the need for people in wheelchairs to acknowledge each other like we are in some kind of club. It reminds me of the VW club where drivers always flash their lights and wave every time they pass a fellow camper van. I don’t mind the acknowledgement; I just don’t feel we warrant any kind of exclusivity. At first I thought the people might just have been people I’d seen in hospital, but during the day it became very apparent they weren’t. I have not given it much thought since, but I guess it is some kind of comfort to have that immediate connection with another person. I can think of many emotional reasons why, but that’s a different article.
There was a large queue to see a fighter plane. It had a few steps going up to the cockpit where you could sit and see out from a pilot’s point of view, and you could have a photo taken. Helen, my primary care nurse from Salisbury Hospital, pushed me to the front so that I could see the plane – we had not gone forward to jump the queue and I hadn’t even considered sitting in the cockpit. However after about 5 minutes the airmen approached me asking if I wanted to sit in the cockpit. “Hell yes, who wouldn’t?” was the answer in my head, but I said no; I thought there was a queue, it would be hassle, or I would be a hindrance.
Little did I know that day how my decision to say no would affect others, and especially the airmen. You see, since then and many more times than I can remember, I constantly said no when people offered to help me – even when someone offered to pass an item from a shelf I could not reach. All for this same reason: I didn’t want to be a pain.
I now realise I was never being a pain; I was an opportunity for someone to do a good deed and feel great. By refusing their offer of help I deprived them of that opportunity, and more than likely made them feel bad, or worse, made them rethink offering again in the future. I had become almost as bad as parents who stop their child talking to a disabled person – both result in the same fear of disabled people.
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” – Maya Angelou
People don’t do things for others because they pity them, it is because it makes them feel good and feel valuable; and we need a whole lot more of this feel-good stuff going around.
If you have a genuine reason to turn down offers of help, then explain your reason well. Otherwise, realise why the offer was made, and accept the help graciously. It is for them just as much as you, if not more. It is almost certainly not up to you to deprive someone of their pride in doing a good deed if you have no good reason to do so.
“Even the smallest act of caring for another person is like a drop of water -it will make ripples throughout the entire pond…” – Jessy and Bryan Matteo
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