By Megan Smiley, Oct 18 2016 09:13AM
I’m finally at the stage of weaning myself off crutches (down to one now!). It’s been nearly five months and it’s given me quite a different perspective on lots of things but mainly people!
Firstly the practical side of things, not being able to use your hands and walk at the same time really does make things tricky, and slow. From everyday jobs like carrying the washing to the machine, taking a rubbish bag out or really little things like checking the time by glancing at your watch, they all become harder. Then there are things that actually become a challenge like getting on and off an escalator at the busy tube station. Everything requires thinking it through beforehand and working out how to do it without falling, failing or causing amusement to others!
What all of the above leads to though, is people offering to help, and when I say people I mean complete strangers. There sometimes isn’t that much someone can do to help unless they fancy picking me up and carrying me but it’s been absolutely lovely the number of people who offer. I’ve even had three cars stopping to ask if I want a lift somewhere whilst crutching down a street. When do you get that in ‘normal’ life?
Another thing you get besides offers of help are comments and conversations aplenty. Comments ranging from ‘skiing accident was it?!’ (seems to be a popular one) to ‘playing football?’ (which is meant as a joke but ironically my trauma related osteoarthritis was most probably a result of an injury from playing football). My favourite one has to be when I was out with my boyfriend and I got ‘kicking him too hard?’ And although Alex might say he’s taken a bit of a mental battering from me over the past few months, his shins can’t take credit for my injury!
The conversations; I think it’s probably a bit like having a cute dog or baby, as since I’ve been on crutches, everyone and anyone talks to me. Asking me what happened and how I’m getting along. The other day I heard a voice from above and looked up, and there was a man sitting on his balcony and he said ‘your walking has improved so much, I’ve seen you go up and down the street and you’re looking much more comfortable now’. This was lovely and encouraging to hear!
While most people say the ‘right’ thing, kids are another matter. Due to their refreshing honesty and lack of filter, they point, stare in amazement and ask their parents why that woman has a pink/red/purple/grey leg, or why she’s walking funny, or will they ever have to have one.
What I’ve realised is that people are nice and want to help other people but are generally to scared/ worried to offer help to a stranger. Be it because they don’t want to offend someone e.g. not giving your seat to someone on the tube as you’re worried that they’ll think it’s because you think they’re old/pregnant/ill rather than the fact you were just being nice! Or because you’re worried that you’ll put yourself in danger e.g. if someone’s being attacked you could get hurt if you get involved. I listened to a TED talk the other day about altruism and how some people might genetically be more selfless but I think most people are instinctively selfless, it’s just cynicism and modern life that make it less apparent. When you’re on crutches that seems to disappear, maybe people’s perception of me is that I’m not dangerous (well only to myself) and their selfless caring nature prevails.
The problem is many people do need help, but it’s not as easy or obvious help like holding a door open to let the person on crutches hobble in, so what’s the answer? Maybe just try to do a few small helpful things for a stranger more often than you currently do. I guess if more of us did that there would be less worry of offending and more acceptance of help.
I won’t miss my crutches but I will miss the chats and the acts of kindness from all those lovely people out there.