We had finished grocery shopping and I told Joe that I was going to head over to the big box store at the other side of the strip mall. To do this I had to negotiate 7 or 9 really difficult curb cuts. The went from the road right up to the wall, so anyone in a wheelchair crossing them would have to push hard and fast to get across, using primarily one are to push and the other arm to hold the chair straight. After a couple, I had gotten the hang of it and was making pretty good time. My goal has always been outdoor pushing so this was a good chance to do that.
About a third of the way along there were a bunch of kids with skateboards, all young and at the age where nothing matches, their arms too long, their height not fully kicked in, the feet, huge. As I pushed some of them noticed me. One after another when rolling by asked if I wanted help. I'd say no, they'd say cool. This happened over and over again, never being asked twice by the same kid.
I was fading when Joe came up to me. He'd loaded the car with groceries and driven over to meet me. I made it in and relaxed a bit. I was not the sole person in a wheelchair in the place. A man, about my age, with an intellectual and physical disability, was there too. His staff was stopped talking to someone on the phone. He. sitting in an elaborate wheelchair was reaching over to grab a bag of chips. This was hard for him and he was working. Getting his body in position, reaching, his fingers came so close, I knew he was going to grab it.
Then the staff noticed what he was doing and grabbed the chips and threw them in the cart as he threw himself back in his chair, defeated.
Goals are what are set around a table with professionals.
But some people have their own 'in the moment' goals. His was to get the chips and put them in his cart. Mine was to make it unassisted from one side of the strip mall to the other. I got offered help, my refusal was listened to. This fellow had help thrust upon him which made him a being incapable of doing what he's capable of. His goal ignored, his success denied.
We are not masters.
We are servants.
So we should ensure that we do.
What we are asked to do.
We should not do.
What isn't necessary to do.
The solution should be easy: ALWAYS ASK before doing something for someone else. And then do what those kids did, accept the answer.
Too bad people don't keep score every day for their support personnel: asked / assumed.
It would be an easy rubric.
My favorite quote from a song is also my motto when it comes to direct support...
From the Grateful Dead's Terrapin Station Suite: "His job is to shed light, and not to master."
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