Not long ago I was having a mobile phone conversation with a friend. He was having a great deal of trouble hearing me and it wasn’t until just about the point of hanging up that I realized the problem. I was holding my mobile upside down. It would be great if I could say that I did this because I couldn’t see the phone but no, sometimes I’m just a bit ditsy.
Being the funny looking kid that I am, a moment of ditsyness can often be taken as a lack of capability or intelligence although at times it can take even less than that. Some people are born unintelligent while others have unintelligence thrust upon them and unfortunately more often than not the latter is true when you have a physical disability. But, to paraphrase a popular idiom; if you assume, you’re an ass!
Legend has it that after being told that I was to be a vegetable, (just days after I was born) my Dad held me in his arms and told me I would speak. Not just speak though; my word was to be hippopotamus (talk about high expectations!). Six months later I was calling any male who came near me “Papa” and I have barely stopped talking ever since. My point? If I need help I can ask for it.
I suspect it is out of concern and the desire not to see me struggle that people feel the need to help and I can appreciate this sentiment. It is however imperative that the help you offer is actually required and not forced upon a person because you assume it would make their life easier. They managed just fine before meeting you and will go on doing so after you depart. It is important to note that after having a lifetime to hone the skills necessary to take care of oneself everyone has their own unique way of doing things. If you make an offer of help and it is declined LET IT GO! Just because it looks awkward to you doesn’t mean it is.
As an adult we are all capable of asking for help if and/or when it is required. If I haven’t asked you to; buckle my seat belt, cut my food or adjust my strap, it’s because I don’t need you to do it. It is not a show of pride or me flexing my independence muscle, it’s just life. Although it may not be meant that way, being too helpful is patronizing and can be very offensive and annoying as it implies that a person is incapable of making a judgment for themselves. In some cases it can even result in an injury to either yourself or the person you are trying to help who is the only person truly able to gauge the risk of said task to their wellbeing. Everyone is entitled to dignity and personal space so a good rule of thumb is to wait to be asked.
Also, when we’re having a chat please don’t tell me how capable, brave, pretty and clever you think I am while you tie my shoe without being asked. You’re not kidding anyone, who is it you’re really trying to convince?