Monday, November 9, 2015

Independence? -- Diane Mettam

“You drive?”

My fellow church member was honestly surprised when I asked to be put on the visitation committee.  I had asked him what the packets were he was handing out, and he told me they were cards with the names, addresses and phone numbers of people who needed to be visited.  I told him I would love to do that, but unfortunately, most people didn’t have wheelchair accessible homes.

“Well,” he said, “some of the folks live in assisted living or nursing homes, so you could visit them.  But can Brad take you?”  That’s when I informed him I had a driver’s license and took myself places all the time.  I suppose I couldn’t blame him - he normally sees us come to church as a couple, and Brad usually drives then, and brings my chair out of the van for me.  I guess he hasn’t seen me on the times I’ve driven myself. 

It’s funny how many things people assume you can’t do if you use a wheelchair.  And it places us in an interesting conundrum.  People often offer to do things for me that I can do for myself.  Do I refuse their help, saying “No, thanks, I can do it myself,” or do I accept the help and say “Thank you”?  Most times I accept the help and say thank you, because I was brought up not to hurt other people’s feelings.  But I know others who refuse all offers of help, preferring to do it themselves.  And some, I’m afraid to say, are not gracious about it.

I think it’s wonderful to live in a time such as this, when so many amazing devices, and such wonderful technology are available to us.  I am grateful for my power chair, and my ramp van with its transfer seat.  My friend’s son has an iPad with apps that allow him to communicate with others despite his severe autism disorder.  Before my hands were rehabilitated 25 years ago, I had a home phone which I answered with a button pendant and used hands-free.  My friend David is grateful for his sip-puff-controlled wheelchair, which not only allowed him to complete college, but to work as a professor.  These are indeed wondrous times.
photo of a wheelchair ramp leading into a van

But there is that fascinating pas de deux in which we often find ourselves.  As much as we pride ourselves on our independence, sometimes we do need help.  My wheelchair batteries are failing, and my new ones aren’t due to arrive until next Tuesday.  Yesterday I found myself stranded halfway up the too-steep portable ramp outside my dentist’s office.  Per their policy, they wouldn’t answer their phone because there was a patient at the desk, and apparently they couldn’t see me right outside their window.  So I left a message and sat outside for about ten minutes until the patient came out.  I asked him to please let the staff know that I was stuck out there on the ramp and would need help getting into the office.  It took both the dental assistant and the hygienist to push the chair and me up the ramp, but we made it, and got the chair plugged into a wall outlet for the time I was in the office.  Yes, I’m independent - to a point!

For now, my wings are clipped.  No more tai chi classes or grocery shopping until my batteries arrive and my husband can install them.  But I am still grateful.  I can go to church and back home.  I can go to school to tutor my children and back home.  And that’s enough for now.  And I’ll continue to accept help gratefully whether I think I need it or not.  It’s not up to me to tell God when and where to send an angel!

“There are others who are slow and need help, who lack strength and abound in poverty; but the eyes of the Lord look kindly upon them; he lifts them out of their lowly condition.”  Sirach 11:12

Thank you, Dear God, that you do look out for all of us, and send us help, even when we think we don’t need it.  Thank you for being there to pick us up, to push us up the ramp, to give us rest and recharge our batteries.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

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