Monday, August 03, 2009
"Show me," Ruby asked quietly. Joe was putting the legs on my wheelchair as Ruby watched fascinated. Once the leg was clicked on she took her two little hands and pushed the foot rest down and said, "Put your foot up, Dave." I did as I was bid. Then they did the other side. Once it was done and my feet were up and in place she brushed back her hair and took the handles on the back of the chair and said, "I'll push you." I thanked her for wanting to help and moved myself with her pushing behind me. I could feel all of her muscles straining to push me down the hallway. Joe came and then they, the two of them, got me down to the lobby of the hotel. Several people smiled as they watched this little girl work so hard to move this big guy in a wheelchair.
Ruby has only known me as a man in a wheelchair. I have been interested in watching her as she comes to realize what the wheelchair means. This is the first visit with her that it seems that the wheelchair means that 'I can't'. Up until now, the wheelchair was just part of me the way that socks are part of me. Up until now, the wheelchair didn't mean anything. But she is coming to understand that people are all different from each other in interesting ways. My difference is that I can't walk. She is now trying to figure out how big that difference is.
So as I watched her lower the footrest I wanted her to learn to be helpful without thinking of me as helpless. It's important to me that Ruby come to value her role in the lives of others, that she nurture her generous spirit, that she continue to want to interfere for good. All well and good as long as pity and arrogance, the ugly stepsisters of cruelty, don't creep into the mix. So, I work hard for her to see me, all of me. The me that accepts help gratefully and the me that gives help willingly. The me that plays board games with her and the me that can teach her how to fingerspell her name.
And I think it's working. She comes to me for the things that I am good at. She knows that I like playing 'I Spy' and that I'm particularly good at fart noises. She has not lost a sense of who I am simply because she has gained a sense of what my wheelchair is. Ever since she was a very little girl she liked a sense of contributing to the general goings on, now she likes to specifically help me out. It's an extension of generosity rather than an outgrowth of pity ---
she's already a great kid. She's going to be a spectacular woman.