Saturday, July 5, 2008

Crutch Girl: Top Five Kindnesses

As I begin my second week on crutches, I have discovered the true nature of people: they are thoughtless.

And by that, I mean they do not think. Their actions are rooted not in intentional rudeness or cruelty, but in the very act of not thinking about the consequences of an act.

Here are the top five kindnesses able-bodied people can do for someone who is less mobile or flexible than they are.

1. Don't hover.
Ladies, you know what I mean. Public toilets are a fact and necessity, and women use them by not touching a thing. As a result, sprinkles, splashes, drips and drops are found in great abundance around the toilet, sink, trash can, door — everywhere.

Without two good legs and balance, I need to touch the very places others avoid. I can't tiptoe around messes and I need to lean or balance against the sink. My feet/crutches/wheels need to find purchase on those wet floors. Most importantly, I need to sit.

Despite rumors to the contrary, no one ever died from touching facilities in a public bathroom, so use the facilities the way they were intended and clean up as you go, so to speak. Like in nature: leave nothing behind, especially a mess.

2. Hold the door. I know you're in a hurry. I've been there. However, it costs you 15 seconds to hold the door open for someone whose hands are otherwise occupied on crutches, wheels, gears and the like. If the door is electronic, hit the button, and wait to make sure the person makes it through. You have no idea how important this kindness is.

3. Hold your horses! Yes, I might be less steady on my foot. Yes, I might be slower on my wheels. It may take me a moment to get re-situated while conducting my business. (Try standing/hopping on one foot the entire time you are in line to pay for your groceries.) However, darting in front of me "real quick" to get your business done is rude and disruptive.

Just wait your turn. It may cost you 15 seconds, but unless you're performing CPR, that won't cost you your life.

4. Pay attention. Everyone is in a hurry — including, surprisingly enough, the person hobbling or wheeling through the cafeteria or bookstore. That individual with limited mobility is slower or moving more cautiously for a reason, such as injury (possibly with pain).

I may be slow on my crutches and focused on my path, but I am excruciatingly aware of everyone and everything around me. I can avoid swinging bags, arms, feet, etc. only so well. The rest is up to you. Know what you are doing around a person with limited mobility and possible injury, and actively give them wide berth.

5. Relax. The time it costs to live and let live, so to speak, is infinitesimal. Just for fun, stand still for 30 seconds — it may feel like an eternity, but you will quickly see it really is not that long. Most importantly, it could mean the world to the person next to you.

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