When strangers offer free thingsJan 25 01:05
My Dad always used to tell me that it takes “interesting” people to make the world go round. Don’t get annoyed or feel challenged, simply accept them. But that can be tricky when you use a wheelchair; when you’re confronted by the weirdest of weirdos and get crazy comments on an exponentially higher basis than able-bodied folks. What do you do when you find yourself in one of these situations makes all the difference, in both maintaining your insanity and challenging stereotypes.
I’ve been offered so many free things since becoming a wheelchair-user it‘s been astounding. If there is a perk to being paralyzed, that would be it. It all began when I complimented the Mother of a kid sharing my hospital room with me when I first broke my neck. She was wearing an antique lace slip that was popping out from under her skirt one day and I complimented her on it. The next day, she came in with the slip in a box and gave it to me. I was blown away. It was also a bit creepy, but I went with it.
Then 8 years later, I found myself in line at the Express and this rich old man in line ahead of me saw me, smiled, and the next thing I knew he was offering to buy whatever was on my lap. And even though it seemed bizarre (he had no idea who I was) I let him. I’ll sometimes think about that interaction and wonder if I’d respond the same if it happened today.
And just the other day while I was at the bank, an older man at the teller next to me said, “My brother is like you. He’s been paralyzed for 40 years. You know you could live with him if you want. His second floor is empty and there’s an elevator." I had no clue who he was and he was offering me a free place to live. Okaaaay.
Even though it can seem great, the bottom line is that all of this free stuff comes from pity. They’re not giving us freebies because we’re celebrities or because they’re trying to get in our good graces. They’re shelling out goodies because they feel bad for us, because their God tells them to do nice things. Whatever the case, it pretty insulting if you think about it, but hey, who doesn't like free cookies?
What’s your position? Take all the free stuff you can or do you resist offers to make a point?
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1. GirlWithTheCane | Jan 26 10:38
I've worked with a lot of people with intellectual disabilities, and I saw the "free food" thing a lot...it made me want to yell, "They have money and they can buy their own food! If you wouldn't give food to a non-disabled person in this circumstance, don't give it to a disabled person!" It seems obvious to me. *shrugs*.
2. Tiffiny | Feb 11 06:02
@GirlWithTheCan: I agree. Giving free food to people with disabilities by default can be very offensive.
3. Tippytoad | Apr 27 05:55
Oh, to experience that conundrum...
4. Not easily offended | May 04 04:38
I would be all about free stuff. I would rather someones "God tell them to do nice things" than tell them to do bad things. I can't work, insurance and Dr. bills eat up a good portion of my income. Before I was injured I would politely refuse once than accept if I was offered something I needed. Now I am more likely to graciously accept the first time. Granted I think the closest I have come to this happening since my accident has been people letting me cut in line or hold a door. But if the next time I'm at BK if the cashier doesn't feel right taking my $1 for the bacon burger, I will be grateful not offended.
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Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.