Each Wednesday, I post my response to a question from the Redefining Disability Challenge. This is my response to the eleventh question in the Challenge. I am not looking ahead to future questions, so I may inadvertently address some topics which will come up later.
Here is this week’s question:
Free post day! Write about anything on your mind today. Any topic that the series does not cover, anything going on in your life related to disability, something you’re excited for, something you’re frustrated about.
As part of my paid employment, I frequently staff a table and provide outreach and education at a variety of community events, health fairs and senior expos. This is a busy time of year for me and I have been working at least two events each week since the end of March.
Friday afternoon a colleague loaded the back of my van with my outreach materials for the weekend. Sunday morning I drove to a local health and services fair for adults and seniors. By the time I got there, all the accessible parking spaces were taken. This often happens at these events and I am used to finding a creative parking space so I can safely deploy the ramp on the side of my van.
I parked at the end of the very last row. I exited my vehicle, popped the rear hatch and prepared to heft the outreach suitcase out of my van. That’s when I realized the suitcase was backwards.
I am only able to grab the suitcase if the handle of the case is facing me when I sit outside the door. I didn’t supervise the person who put the case in my van and never checked to make sure the case was positioned so I could get it out of my van.
This certainly wasn’t the first time I was alone and needed assistance. I have lived with disability all my life, and frequently find myself alone, physically unable to perform a task. When this happens, I usually do the following:
- Take a deep breath and sigh. I HATE it when this happens! Why does it always happen when I don’t have time for this?!
- Breathe again.
- Look around me for anything I can use creatively to help me get out of this situation. If something is out of reach, can I fish for it using a reacher, a stick or an umbrella? If something is too heavy, can I use something as a lever or a tool to help with the hefting? There is a reason my best friend and I call ourselves “female MacGuyvers.” I can get myself out of almost anything.
- Send a silent prayer out to the universe, something along the lines of, “I could really use an angel right about now!”
Without fail, as soon as I ask for help – it arrives! (Note to self….consider making #4 first on your list next time.)
Sunday morning, help arrived wearing a dark blue coat, glasses and a 10,000 watt smile. We locked eyes as she walked up the driveway towards the entrance of the community center. I called out a greeting and asked if she would be willing to help lift my suitcase out of my van. Paulette, I learned her name as she set the case on the ground, was eager to help and insisted on wheeling the suitcase up to the building. Once we were inside, she proceeded to assist as I set up my display materials, making sure the tablecloth was centered and the brochures were all facing forward.
Paulette returned several times during the event to check on me. The first time she offered to get my coffee. At noon she offered to get me some fruit or cookies. Two hours later, she returned to make sure I didn’t need additional assistance packing the suitcase.
“Will you need me to help you load that in your car?”
I declined her offer. I had given away most of my goodies, so the case was much lighter than it had been in the morning. I zipped it up and set it on the ground, turning to thank her again for all of her help throughout the day.
“Do you need help getting that out to your car?”
I assured her I was all set, and thanked her again. I pulled up the handle, tilting the suitcase back on its wheels.
“Are you certain you won’t have any trouble?”
I stopped, giving her a wide smile and tilting my head. “Would it make you feel better if I said yes?”
She grinned back at me, a twinkle in her eye. “Yes, it would be a blessing. I know you can probably do it, but I’m honored that you would let me do this for you.”
I handed over the suitcase, reminding myself although I hate asking for help, allowing others to help me sometimes is the right course of action.