Tyrannical compassion

sit2It was a kids’ event. That probably set the tone. Munchkins were running rampant in the library meeting room waiting for the movie as patiently as a room full of 3 to 12-year-olds can be expected to wait, i.e. not at all.

Every chair was taken. Not that there were people sitting in every chair, but each was occupied by either a child, adult, backpack, jacket, toy, lunch, shoe, or some other object clearly marking the seat as “saved”.

Sensing with my innate insight into human nature that tossing one of the little ones off his or her seat and wresting it for my own use would be looked upon as unsociable behavior to this mass of narrow-minded suburbanites, I propped myself against a wall toward the back of the room.

Something about the cane I held must have awoken some maternal Nazi in the woman dragging extra chairs in. Seeing me, she plopped one in front of me and told me (in no uncertain terms) to sit.

As most of us with a visible disability have experienced, people like to be helpful. That’s a Good Thing. I can’t count the number of people who have opened doors for me or offered to assist in other ways when they see me limping along, cane in hand. I appreciate it, even if it’s not always necessary. It’s refreshing to witness, never mind be the object of, the compassion of others.

Usually, I accept the offers of help people make. This time, however, I politely declined. First of all, it wasn’t necessary. I was happy to rest against the wall, squatting or sitting on the sit1floor from time to time as needed. Second, taking a seat when so many kids and other adults were crowded on the floor would have made me feel more than a little self-conscious.

The woman insisted and I insisted right back at her that, while I appreciated the gesture, it wasn’t necessary. Well, this was the archetypal woman who was not going to take no for an answer. She was going to do this good deed whether I needed, wanted, liked it or not. She practically shoved the chair at me. Trying to maintain a friendly demeanor, I continued to resist.

She simply wouldn’t give up. She must have told me a dozen times to take the #%$* chair. She didn’t really swear but she was several giant steps beyond pushy. She’d have had to pull back some to qualify as rude.

Mind you I’m not averse to accepting help when it’s needed. Some family members pretty much carried me down a mountain when I fulfilled one item from my chair list. (See this previous post for the full story.) But everyone, disabled or not, needs to retain a modicum of self respect. It’s also therapeutic to do things for oneself. Those concepts eluded this woman.

The lesson to be taken from all this is: Be kind and courteous, but listen for subtle cues, like the word, “NO“.


About rickconti

It's not about me, remember?
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