The drop off for disabled people at the Royal Ontario Museum is a fair piece from the front door. We were there right at ten when it opened so the side door, which opens an hour later, was locked. That’s the door that’s closest. I have made this push several times, it’s hard. To get from the drop off to the front door you have to roll uphill on a fairly steep slope. This means I have to use my right arm to push up and over and my left hand to hold the other wheels steady so I don’t swing downwards. I can do it, but it’s work.
Ruby and Sadie were walking with me as Joe drove off to park the car. Normally they ride with him because I like to be able to focus just on making it to the door. Mind and body are all involved in this. But I’ve done it a few times, so when they wanted to get out of the car and come with me, I thought, “Why not?”
Once and passerby took a step towards me to help, I caught his eye and shook my head. He was cool because he quickly stepped back and gave me a thumbs up. This happened so quickly that the girls didn’t even notice. Wonderful.
Then suddenly my pushing got a lot easier. Sadie had come behind me and decided to help me. In an instant I had to think through this. I wouldn’t let Joe do this. Sadie isn’t Joe. I wouldn’t let anyone do this. Sadie isn’t just anyone. Then, I heard the girls laughing behind me and I asked why. Ruby said, “Sadie is pushing you and I am pushing Sadie.”
So there I was an old fat man in a wheelchair with two children behind me pushing as hard as they could to get me to the door. And wouldn’t there be a line up? Yeah, there was. A gathering of gawkers. I needed, I knew, to make a decision and to do something. I felt the pressure of their eyes, I felt the pressure to prove myself able, I felt the pressure of my pride pressing hard against the shame that lives at the back of my mind. I had to do something.
That’s what I did. I decided that the something I needed to do was nothing. The girls were helping because they wanted to help me. I help them all the time. This is reciprocity. An act of giving back. And they were laughing while they did it. Gawkers gawk so gawk they did but they often never see what’s in front of them. I am not responsible for what they see or how they see or how they will describe this later.
They pushed, I pushed with them. we were one in rhythm.
When we got to the door, I asked the girls to give the control of the chair back to me so I could turn and get over the bump into the lobby. I explained, in the lineup to drop off our coats, that they couldn’t push me in the building because I needed sole control of the speed and direction of the chair so I didn’t run into people.
I saw a new idea form in two sets of mischievous eyes but they agreed.
I don’t know what those who saw the girls get behind and push me.
And I say this with complete and utter honesty, I don’t care.
When children want to give, when their impulse is to help, when their heart is in the right place – you take their gift. You honour that gift. You cherish that gift. Because the privilege of being able to watch hearts grow is one not to be taken lightly.