Independence Is the Greatest Gift

We all have found out, whether from illness or injury, just how frustrating it is to be dependant on other people for things.  You don’t necessarily mind people doing things for you… until you have no other choice.

I used to be a very active, quasi-athletic person.. restaurant manager, unloading trucks, running around like a chicken with my head cut off, with all the perspectives of youth and health that made me feel “18 feet tall and bullet proof” so to speak.  Here I am 20 years later – I have COPD, osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, a “bad back” and a list of other things that challenge my independance on a regular basis.

It’s one thing when you’re feeling a bit lazy and don’t want to do something, it’s an entirely different mentally when you can’t.

Before coming to my present job for health reasons (I work at home doing tech support by phone/computer) I ran a small chain of tobacco stores.  Long hours, hard work and I loved it.  Well most of it.  My favorite part was the regular customers and the conversations.

There was a lady named Patty that used to come in to one of my stores on Saturdays.  Wonderful funny lady who was the victim of a stroke.  Arm folded up like she was using an invisible sling, cane with the other side and she would have problems processing her speech sometimes.  She would buy 5 instant lottery tickets, give you any winners she had and go on her way. Anyway, Patty loved coming in and playing her scratch off tickets, but due to her condition from the stroke, she couldn’t scratch them off and hated to ask.    Patty would come in when you were alone and not busy.  As soon as I figured that out, I asked once offering to help.. then I just did it and acted as if she was doing it herself.  I put it in front of her and scratched it so that she would be the one looking at the ticket instead of me.  Afterall, I wasn’t scratching them for me I was doing it for her.  She loved it!  After that, I trained my employees on how to treat Patty.  She started bringing us in muffins and cookies and would stay a little longer to talk and play a few more tickets, laughing and smiling the whole time.

We’re all willing to help out someone in need, but sometimes you need to be… less obvious about it and more mindful of the other person’s feelings of independence.  Especially if this is a chronic or ongoing issue.  This really comes into play with older folks.

I recently went through almost a week of being down due to a back spasm (kind of like a charlie horse in the back muscles) and I hated having to just sit there and do nothing.  Mind you any other time I wouldn’t be up doing a whole lot, but now I had to.  For lack of a better term… it sucked.

Then today I watched this video about a teenager named Dee who just wanted the ability to pick up something off the floor or turn on a light switch and it all came rushing back.  While his help had to be a bit more obvious (and a little less slick) his needs are more than most.  Kudos for the engineering students that put this all together for him!

That was my big smile today and I just had to share.

So get in touch with your inner Thomas Edison when you’re helping someone.  Be mindful of their pride and need for independence.  Rather than doing things for them, see if you can find a way to help them do it for themselves.  Independence is a precious thing.




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