We parked and I pushed up the hill from the car to the store and then we set about shopping, Joe coming with me as I pushed the store. It was a big store but had lots of people so while I went a long distance there was a lot of stopping and a lot of waiting so it wasn’t sustained in any way. When we were in the checkout line I told Joe I wanted more distance so I’d go out and then across the parking lot to the store next door. He said he’d return to the car to drop off the groceries.
I pushed along the parking lot again, pleased because outdoor pushing is a goal for me. It was a challenge with uneven pavement and a slope the whole way that had to be conquered. I got to where I needed to go up to and then on to the sidewalk. I pushed uphill to the curb cut, when I got there the curb cut had a real lip on it. It was almost enough to say, “Forget it buddy.” But I used my feet and my arms to get over the barrier and then, oh my, the curb cut was steep.
I was pushing hard. As much as I tried one arm is slightly stronger than the other and I was listing to the right. But I was still making progress. I was about seven inches from the top. I was working really hard. And a woman came out of the store and saw me struggling.
She smiled a greeting and said hello. My hello back was breathless as I didn’t stop with the pushing. I was inching forward, she walked slowly by me, giving me time to ask for help. I didn’t, she didn’t offer, and then, suddenly, I was on the sidewalk and pushing to the door of the store.
She saw me.
She opened the possibility for me to ask for help.
When the ask didn’t come.
She didn’t offer.
Isn’t it weird that I’m writing about someone who saw a disabled guy struggle to get up a steep curb cut ramp and she didn’t offer help and I see her as some kind of hero. Because I do. She allowed me the dignity of a decision. She allowed me the opportunity to finish what I started. She welcomed me without believing she knew what I needed.
That so rarely happens. That when it does I am reminded that respect for me and for others with disabilities is possible.