Joe had gone to park the car and I was pushing myself into the Metrocenter, a really large mall close to our hotel in Newcastle. There was a slight rise and I was working to get myself up and over to the accessible door. An elderly woman and her son with an intellectual disability were walking towards the same door but from a different direction. I saw her concern as she watched me work to push up to the door and I knew that she desperately wanted to help me. I also knew that, at her age, that simple act could kill her.

We each neared each other and then, she darted towards me. Her son’s hand shot out and took hold of his mother’s arm. “Ask first,” he said, “remember, ask first.” A bit of annoyance and a bit of anger crossed her face at his direction, but she slowed to a stop and asked, “Could I give you a push?” I told her that I was just fine and didn’t need any help. I glanced at her son and said, “Thanks.”

And I meant it.

On arrival here in Heathrow I was grabbed and pushed, almost violently, by someone wishing to appear helpful, with is different than actually being helpful, and as a result I’ve been in pain all week. It’s beginning to lessen, but my neck and back have bothered me ever since he grabbed the back of the chair and pushed me, hard, forward. I flew back in my chair and my neck snapped backwards. The pain for the first couple of days resulted in me needing some fairly strong pain medication.

So, yes, I thanked him and yes, I meant it.

“Ask first, remember, ask first,” he had said. I don’t know the story behind his quick response and or what personal experience he has had as a person with a disability that led him to such a skillful intervention, but what ever it was, I’m thankful.

“Ask first, remember, ask first.”