Yesterday, after the gym, we went grocery shopping. Maybe I should rethink that routine. However, I got out of the car and into my old chair. It’s the one I use in the gym because it’s already beat up. After using the new one for quite a while now, this one feels like a clunker, it’s heavy, it doesn’t glide, it challenges me to get it where I’m going. It’s like it’s annoyed that I dragged it out of retirement just for the silly purpose of getting toilet paper and wet wipes.

Anyways, I was pushing uphill towards the store and working hard to do it. The traffic stopped awaiting my passage over the pedestrian marked route. A woman saw me, saw the traffic and headed towards me. Joe, who often intervenes in these situations had stayed behind gathering our cloth bags to pack the groceries in. He arrived to see her headed towards me, saying, ‘Would you like some help?’ with a determined face. I said, “Thanks, but no.” She stopped, to her credit, didn’t press, a testament to her ability to listen, turned and left walking the stiff walk of the mightily offended.

We got into the store and a short time later I was behind an elderly woman, holding on to her cart for dear life. She had stopped. I asked her if I could pass by and she startled for a second and pulled over to the side. She and I chatted a little bit as I went by, a lovely lady.

Over the course of the shopping trip, my chair grumbling all the way, we kept running into each other. She always had a quip or comment to make. She was funny. She was also, I realized, accompanied by the woman who got annoyed and offended by my refusal of help.

And that scared the shit out of me.

You see, I think if someone is impatient with me, for simply wanting to be independent, what do they do to those in their care. What needs do they get from helping and are those needs healthy? What will impatience turn into when no ones watching. Anger? Frustration? And what will those emotions translate into when they become actions.

Is she safe?

You may think this a stretch. I do not. I think good staff see the word ‘no’ in relation to an offer of help as welcome. They see it as a sign of independence and effort and even self esteem. I think that good staff feel honoured when someone they serve isn’t afraid of their power and their temper and their prejudices.

But.

I help you because I need to help you because I have a hole in my soul that needs filling with your dependency on me. Your vulnerability and weakness is necessary for my feeling good about who I am. Pushing you into the store excuses me from pushing myself into a fuller life.

She may be safe.

I hope she is.

But I fear she’s not.

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