One cannot live without it. I am not a rock, not an island. My life is interconnected with dozens of others closely — and the rest of the world’s sentient beings — whenever I am out and about. Life without help is isolating, and helping hands grease the human experience, smoothing pathways, enabling, making all sorts of things possible that would not be otherwise.
Disabled people know this well, and gratitude is on our minds often when someone does the odd favor, gets us out of a jam, reaches that book on a high shelf. Help is handy, help is sublime, help is necessary.
Unless it is not desired.
And when it puts the grand spotlight of life squarely on your disability.
So this is the dicey part. I want to encourage altruism. I want it to flourish. It is an essential component of being human. Without it we descend into chaos and a brutal, self-centered way of life. But I am fond of my own sanity too, and the abbreviated but precious independence I have fiercely and relentlessly wrested from my post-accident life.
I am a male T8 paraplegic from a hit-and-run bicycle accident 25 years ago. I grew up in backwoods New England, where independence is as stoutly defended as anywhere in the world. In my town you dug your own post-holes, repaired your own roof, stayed frugal. Self-reliance was a religion, a way of life.
My, oh my — becoming disabled was a jolt.
I couldn’t even get into my own house any more. Could barely pull on my trousers. Couldn’t mow my lawn or fix my gutters. I managed to lose most of everything I had worked 35 years for — house, marriage, job, almost my children.
In those early years, avoiding unsolicited help was relatively easy. I could dash around i