I Would Walk Five Hundred More

I wrote this a few years ago after an accident that nearly cost me my leg but never posted it. I guess it's time.

"Can I help you?" I keep getting asked.

Not at a store or in a restaurant or some other establishment where "Can I help you?" indicates a culturally sanctioned business arrangement. No, people keep saying this to me because I look like I actually require assistance.

I banged up my leg a week or so ago. It's all my own fault and I had it coming. I'll heal up pretty well, save for a scar, in another week or so. In the meantime, my knee is badly swollen, making walking awkward and a bit uncomfortable. This being the case I am temporarily using a cane and ambulating with an inelegant gait. This has led a number of people, mostly strangers but even a few friends, to exercise their limited samaritanism and offer to help me move about, again and again and again.

It's not that I don't appreciate the good will of those around me. I do, in fact, appreciate it very much. I'm privileged to have so many people about me on a daily basis that are willing to concern and even inconvenience themselves on my behalf. On the other hand, I'm injured, not crippled. I need to move about under my own power, without assistance, because I should be the one to deal with my own inadequacies and I am the one who should deal with the consequences of my own actions.

The big issue, really, is one of pride. Permanently injured or not, to suggest that one is not capable, as offering help does, bruises the ego. It is important, to me at least, that everyone understand that I am not less of a person because I walk with a different stride or because I need to pace in a circle every so often to keep my knee from stiffening. It is vitally important that I prove to others and to myself that my injury, however temporary, can't keep me down. It hurts, just a bit, when someone insinuates, even unintentionally, that I may be less than who I was two weeks ago.

It's not that I'm ungrateful. It's that goodwill doesn't always take the form of charity. Sometimes goodwill needs to be faith in someone one's ability to overcome.


S.W. Anderson said...

FWIW, I doubt offers to help are meant even partially as a comment on your ability or inability to overcome an injury. I don't think they reflect conscious decision making about you or your situation by the person offering help.

Some of us are brought up to offer help when and where it looks like our help might be needed. It's almost a reflex. We're also brought up to believe it's good for us to be helpful. Doing so exercises one's more decent tendencies. Like anything, those can become weak and flaccid through lack of use.

So, even though someone offers you a hand, don't take it as being all about you. ;)

Tom Harper said...

At least nobody talked about you in the third person while you were right there in earshot :) (I'm assuming that, anyway.)

People in wheelchairs always complain about that. If they're with an attendant, other people talk only to the attendant. The waitress says "and what would he like?" People on the street say "Oh, how did this happen to him?"

Glad your leg recovered.

Ricardo said...

Well first off I'm glad you have made a complete recovery. I'm glad you decided to share this story after so many years.

I know what you mean about the pride thing. You want to do it all and show you are fine. I think this is a dude thing.

peony said...

If you are ever in such a situation again, remember the strangers don't know if this is a temporary injury or permanent condition and offering help is a kindness.

You were raised, as S W Anderson was, to offer help to someone who appeared to be having a difficulty.

The thing to remember is it's not about your ego, it's about being helpful. All you need to say is "Thank you, I appreciate the the offer but I need to exercise it for the injury to heal."