A friend of mine, a polio victim, spends a lot of his time in a wheelchair. He’s comfortable with his situation now, but only after having gone through much depression and angst. He still walks short distances using crutches. Another friend has walked with canes for most of her adult life after suffering an auto accident in which she broke her back. She struggled and struggled and through grit and determination, stayed out of a wheelchair for as long as she could, some 40 years after the accident. She now spends a lot of her time in a chair in order to get around more easily and without severe pain.

It’s alarming what both have told me about some of the differences they experience when they’re in their chairs versus on crutches or canes. And while I am certainly not comparing my injury- and rehab-time to their situation, I can totally understand when they complain about the people around them. I’ve been there and, as a result of back injuries, find myself at times unsteady on my feet. 

It’s astounding how unconscious people are. I’ve been with these friends in crowds, or even when we are just maneuvering down a street. When they are using their crutches or canes, they are terrified about being around other people. They don’t have much balance to begin with so the slightest bump can send them reeling. I know because I’ve been next to them. When we’re walking together, I often feel like a blocking back opening a hole in the defense. I’ve practically smashed into people walking briskly right at us who seem to have absolutely no regard for who’s in front of them. And I’m not just talking about people on their cell phones.

I have seen people crash into us; I’ve seen people almost knock my friends over; I’ve seen people stop short or crashing and then, almost incredulously, give them an evil stare as if to say, “How dare you impede my forward progress!”

There are so many times that there are people in need, those with clear signs of difficulty like people using canes, crutches, and wheelchairs. But there are also those with an infirmity that no one notices who may need a little assistance. Seniors especially are vulnerable. Many have mobility issues, others don’t see or hear well. And their balance, even if they’re not using a cane or walker, is less stable.

Really, folks, we all need to slow down, look around, and be much more aware of those who might need a little assistance or move a bit more gingerly. It’s not asking much – I’m not even asking that you stop doing what you’re doing to help. Often there’s no help needed. Maybe just a bit more patience. I’m just sayin’.

3/31/2012 06:16:05 am

When I'm out with the parental unit, I seem to run into people at the extremes -- either impatient and rude very patients and willing to go above an beyond to be helpful. We need to all realize that it will be us one day.

Bart Astor
4/2/2012 08:42:24 am

Thanks for your comment, Denise. Good observation. I think many people are awkward and uncomfortable around people in chairs or who have mobility problems. When I was in that situation I sure loved it when someone offered assistance. But I hope you're wrong that it will be us one day. It could be, but hopefully not.

6/18/2012 01:40:12 am

I have a family friend who is also a polio victim and is stuck on a wheelchair but he is always optimistic and always makes all those around him happy.

Bart Astor
6/19/2012 05:12:28 am

That's good to hear. We all know people who are positive regardless of their physical condition. That's how I hope I would be if in the same situation. Sadly, we know others too who don't share that joy. But ours is not to judge but to accept. Thanks for your comment.


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