Friday, August 31, 2007

Chris Goes To The Mall

Big hair, bigger smile, I think that's how I remember my first sight of Chris. I was going to be presenting at 5 Oaks, a United Church camp, where K-W Hab was having their annual staff retreat/conference. I walked into a smaller room to set up my notes and prepare and Chris was came in the room to welcome me and within seconds she was sitting down and we were chatting. I started coming to the K-W conference to try out new lecture material and to keep in touch with a gang that I really came to care about.

As we both work in the same field and in the same province, without question we would run into each other regularly. It was always a pleasure. We discovered we had things in common and both had a shared vision of what it meant to provide good care. Last time I saw Chris she, like me, was using a wheelchair. She and a gang from K-W had come to hear Dick Sobsey present and Chris didn't want to miss it even though she was recovering from knee surgery.

We ended up chatting yesterday on the telephone and I was asking Chris if her experience of being in a wheel chair had changed how she saw disability. She said that she primarily uses a walker and she has indeed encountered situations regularly that made her realize the importance of dignity when interatcting with another. Then, serious stuff done, we switched to funny experiences in world of disability.

Chris told me that she was walking from car to store in a mall and had stepped down wrong on her knee. She was in a lot of pain and she knew she had to move more slowly and more carefully than ever before. As she started towards the store she noted a man stopping and holding the door for her. She knew that the walk was going to take some time so she said, "That's OK, don't bother holding the door."

"He wouldn't leave," she said.

"I had to try and speed up because it was going to take forever and I didn't want him standing there. I didn't want to hold him up. I kept looking up and saying 'Really, it's ok' but he wouldn't leave. Sweat is rolling down my back as I'm trying to get to the damn door, I don't know how many times I said, 'Please, go ahead' but he wouldn't leave. Now I'm really pushing myself and my knee hurts and I'm thinking unkind thoughts about that guy at the door, why is he doing this to me, why is he forcing me to rush, why doesn't he leave me alone, then I'd look up and say, 'Honestly, it's alright, go ahead, I'll be OK,' but he doesn't leave the door. I push myself harder, my knee is hurting, I keep looking up, he smiles, he doesn't get it, he doesn't leave. Finally, after what seems like hours, I get to the door and I get up the small step and inside. 'It's over,' I think to myself and then I look up and there he is at the inside door holding it open, blocking other people while I make my way over to him all I could think was ... Why wouldn't he leave me alone!"

Such is what disabled people often think when you think we're thinking, 'Oh how kind!"


Note to Chris: You asked me on the phone where I get my ideas for my blog ... well today the answer is ... from you. Ha! Ha! Bet seeing this here surprised you!


Anonymous said...

As a co-worker and a good friend of Chris' I can appreciate her frustration in situations such as this. People with disabilities may want to open their own dam doors.
I know that I can speak on behalf of K-W Hab staff in saying that we always look forward to you coming out to our 5 Oaks conference. We are looking forward to seeing you in October.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, you surprised me! Sometimes we need reminders to respect the wishes or requests of anyone no matter how simple they are. Each person generally knows what is right for them and we may not have all the information. Dave, you truly have a gift of putting life experiences into words that I and many others can learn from. Thank you." Chris.

Jeff said...


Great story and it puts so much into focus on the things we do that are wrong because we don't ask or listen to what we are told...


Anonymous said...

Note to Dave: "...where I get my ideas for my blog ... well today the answer is ... from you. Ha! Ha! Bet seeing this here surprised you!"
Booster Pack

Anonymous said...

As an employee of KW Hab I am so excited to hear you are going to be at Five Oaks this year. I so enjoy your talks and can be assured I will leave with things to ponder and reminded of why we do what we do. Chris's story once again reminds us of respect and listening to what is being said to us. See you in October!

Anonymous said...

"Save me from your service." Yes, indeed. It's amazing how offended people get when offered assistance is refused, no matter how kindly, as if the person in question had no right to refuse, no business making his or her own choices. So odd, that anger.