The Hostility of the Helper

When others perceive us (disabled people) as being in need of help there can be a strange dynamic in play. They deny our agency, our perspective, seeing us as an obligation. They are forced, in their minds, to hold the door open or tie down our wheelchairs or grab our arm unexpectedly and try to steer us up the steps, forced by their concept of what is proper and even moral. It’s the right thing to do. They’re prepared to do their duty. “No, thank you” isn’t a possible answer to their concept of dutiful helping. The dark side of their duty is anger. They’re already mad, before we respond in any way to defuse or exacerbate the situation. Pre-loaded with dehumanizing forces. The undercurrent of hostility can poison the respectful interdependence that is possible between any people. They will perform their duty, and we the helped will perform gratitude. For survival, sometimes we have to accept hostile, angry, disrespectful help. I wonder how others think about this and how they keep their equilibrium, a philosophical distance or perspective maybe, and either move on or are able to change the Helper’s minds. The compliance that makes us one of the good ones while we may be burning with fury. It is no different from what most of humanity has to go through and most of us will meet it as we age.

In contrast, how much I appreciate open-hearted kindness. Moments of being treated just regular, without fuss, being seen, heard, listened to, being a person. Those moments wherever we find them from friends, family, people in our communities, or strangers, are a healing antidote, for us to treasure & keep in our core, against the hatred of people whose cruelty we have to swallow. What helped last night? The kindness of a “just regular folks” bus driver acting decent. Chatting with someone about their baby on the elevator. Hip hop dancers on the train. Reading Mc’s bus poems. Art and culture and . . . I’d maybe call it manners . . . all indescribably precious.

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