Chloe and I can be found in Wal-mart on most Tuesday mornings. A friend from my home church in North Carolina (thanks Kim!) told me that the best time to go to Wal-mart was on Tuesday mornings. As I rarely stand in line to wait AT ALL, and as the aisles are usually clear of shoppers, she was exactly right. I save a lot of money at Wal-mart, so it is worth my while to even get my groceries there as one of the two Wal-marts in Frederick is a “super” Wal-mart.
This morning the weather was gorgeous! Not a cloud in sight, so I didn’t even bother bringing my cane. Not only was I not wobbly today, but I had a spring in my step! (Well… a spring for ME!) We hadn’t been shopping very long when we approached an elderly lady pushing her cart and shopping. She asked me if she could help me find something.
I took a good look at her and noted that she wasn’t a Wal-mart employee.
“Erm… No thank you!” I replied. “I’m finding everything I need”.
“What do you need dear, let me help you!” she insisted.
She even turned her cart around so that she was now headed in the SAME direction as I was. I stammered, “Well … umm… I’m looking for golden raisens. They come in a big yellow box”. She spotted them for me and placed them in my cart.
“What else do you need, dear?” she asked nicely but firmly.
“Really, I’m fine. I appreciate your help,” I said a little nervous now. I moved on down the aisle and the little lady stayed right beside me with her own cart.
I’m really not a DUMB person, but it took me until the third aisle of us shopping side-by-side that I finally realized something. She had just handed my list back to me after noting something I needed and bringing it to where I was. She thought I had vision difficulties! I quickly put together that having Chloe by my side meant she thought that Chloe was my seeing eye dog!
Now hiding a big smile, I finally tapped her and said, “Ma’am? I’m not blind. I have a hearing loss! I’m a late-deafened adult and this is my hearing assistance/balance assist dog”, I said as I pointed to Chloe’s vest.
This little lady certainly didn’t mean to be a “pain”, but I had tried to explain that I didn’t need her help a couple of times. Without being almost rude… I didn’t know how to get rid of her!
She really DID mean well. She was trying to help. She thought I was a young woman (compared to HER) who couldn’t see well and was trying to shop on my own. She was being helpful. It wasn’t until I realized what she thought my limitations were, that I was able to explain exactly what I could and could NOT do.
Many times a person with a disability may feel frustration building up inside because of how HELPFUL everyone is! It is important to find out exactly what it is that a person with a disability may need from you – if anything. I attend Fidos For Freedom a couple of times a month with Chloe for training. I work side-by-side with people who have many different kinds of disabilities. Everyone is different. Even those of us with hearing loss vary in how our disability impacts our lives. I am more likely to need you to offer me a steady hand when getting up off the floor, than I am for you to repeat something that I missed. Our training floor is looped, and I hear really well in spite of the huge training floor. Other hard-of-hearing people or late-deafened people may not hear as well as I do, but are more steady on their feet. Chloe actually helps me with balance-related tasks almost as much as she helps me with sounds I cannot hear or “place directionally”.
Some of the clients use walkers, wheelchairs, or power scooters. Some have canes that they use all the time – not part-time like I do! Yet, each of them have varying degrees of ability. After being matched at Fidos For Freedom, the trainers work hard to have YOUR dog learn specific tasks that will help YOU. So I have learned to not “help” unless I have already established a relationship with someone and I know exactly how I might best help them.
One thing I have learned about people with disabilities… they don’t want to be treated like they are disabled. They usually try to maximize their ABILITIES so that they can live a good life in spite of a disability.
How Can I Help?
Having two young adult kids is another good reason to learn to ASK how one might help. Try not to assume what someone else needs. Simply ask. If they want or need your help, they are given the chance to take control of their own needs by requesting specific help for specific tasks. My son? Yeah, he’ll let me do his laundry until he leaves home. Because I LOVE doing laundry (I realize I’m strange), I don’t mind doing this. However, I have learned to ASK if one of my kids needs my assistance. Because I respect them and have shown them that I trust them to let me know if they need something, they have learned to ask for help when they need it.
We should take care about not being to prideful to ask for assistance when needed too. That can be harder for some than others!
What type of things do people try to help you with even though you may not need it?
What types of things do you have trouble ASKING for help with doing?
© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal