A couple weekends ago I flew to Boston.
I boarded my flight with my usual gear; my Tom Bihn backpack and my carry-on suitcase on wheels. As I walked toward my seat in the back of the plane, I heard someone ask, “Can I help with anything?” “Oh, I’m good,” I replied. Then another offer for help. Then another. “With what? I’m literally just walking!” I thought to myself, all the while smiling and thanking them for their offers. I wasn’t even close to my seat yet, so I though that I must have looked extra pathetic.
I finally made it to my seat and…you guessed it, one more offer to “give me a hand.” “No thank you,” I smiled.
Then I looked at the overhead compartment and thought, “Dude, you better not eff this up.”
I didn’t, in case you were wondering.
I sat there thinking about what had happened and honestly, I was kind of annoyed. I told a friend about it and she said, “At least people were being nice.”
See, that’s my philosophy 99% of the time! I appreciate that people are trying to be kind even though their assumption that I need help could be taken as an offense. I’d rather spend my energy being thankful than offended. It took me a long time to get to this place, honestly. When I was more immature I just wanted to prove everybody wrong and it was always about me and the assumption that people were trying to put me down. I think it’s very rare that someone is trying to offend you or question your capabilities when they offer to help; they’re simply trying to be kind. And that’s good.
I was actually flying to Boston to attend the Helping Hands Foundation‘s Winter Outing and I was able to tell the parents this story and try to encourage them. As parents, we really want to try and figure everything out and do things “the right way.” And for parents of kids with physical differences, there are even more situations at play. How do we deal with people staring? Name-calling? Unwanted offers of assistance?
I’ve been at this living one-handed thing for nearly 40 years and I don’t have the answers to those questions figured out yet. And honestly, I’m not so sure that’s even a good goal. The best we can do, I think, is what we think is right and be patient with each other and ourselves the rest of the time. Most of the time offers to help don’t bother me a bit. That day, on that flight, for some reason…did. And that’s ok. There are times when getting stared at still bothers me, too. It’s part of the experience.
If you’re a parent and you’re worried about how to help your kid navigate these sometimes tricky waters, here’s my encouragement:
Be gracious. Be patient. With yourself, your child and with others. You’re doing an amazing job. Just keep doing your best and when those times come where things don’t go according to plan, learn from it and move forward. You got this.
And if you need any advice, I’m happy to give you a hand.
But, just one.