The Soapbox: When helping is not helping

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Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.

I’ll start this with a hypothetical situation. You are invited to an event where the organizers are asking attendees to bring non-perishable food items for the local food pantry. So you decide to clean out your cupboards and assemble a box of canned items, all with expiration dates that pre-date the last Red Sox World Series win (which was in 2018).

Then you get offended because the food pantry will not accept expired food. “But I am only trying to help!” you exclaim. “They should be grateful for whatever they can get!” You refuse to listen to the explanation that people can get sick from eating food that has been expired for five years. “I WAS JUST TRYING TO HELP!” you whine.

What too many people don’t realize is that some attempts to “help” can actually hurt. This hurt can be emotional, physical, or both. I use a walker mostly for balance issues. I am very independent, I can live alone and get around on my own, and I do not need a companion or caregiver to help me get through life. Nor do I want one. I can open doors on my own.

If you wish to hold a door open for me, please do NOT yank the door while I am pushing or pulling it open. This happened to me the other night as I was leaving a Fisher Cats game, and this caused me to fall. The time to offer help is to do it before I touch the door handle. If you want to go ahead of me and hold the door, fine, but please ask first. I may have a mobility issue, but I am not blind, deaf, or mentally disabled in any way. You can communicate with me as you can with any able-bodied person.

To add insult to injury, every time I’ve called someone out for doing the door thing, they get indignant and huff “I WAS ONLY TRYING TO HELP!” as they go away. Would they say that to someone who got sick from food poisoning because of a donated can of expired food, given by someone who “was only trying to help”? I don’t know, maybe they would.

So I am here to try to educate the able-bodied about how to interact with disabled folks. Below is an excellent video that covers several scenarios that one might come across when there is a disabled person around. I urge you to watch it in its entirety, but my issue comes at around the 1:10 point.

None of us are perfect, but some of us have more visible imperfections than others. But no matter what our imperfections are, we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. A little education goes a long way.

Oh, and if you want to donate to the New Hampshire Food Bank, please don’t give them five-year-old food that’s been sitting in your cupboard. If you don’t have time to shop for food to donate, they always welcome cash donations. That is something that I guarantee WILL help

Thanks for reading, and see you at a Fisher Cats game soon!

Christine was born in Brooklyn, New York, and has also lived in New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Boston, before moving to Manchester in 2011.  She is a lifelong baseball fan and roots for the Red Sox, the Blue Jays, and whoever is playing the Yankees.  She also still has a soft spot for the Mets.  During the summer, she can be found in her natural habitat, Delta Dental Stadium, where she’s been a Fisher Cats season ticket holder for over 10 years.  She collects bobbleheads, graphic T-shirts, and classic TV shows on DVD.

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