I am often reminded that being physically challenged is not the worst way to be disabled. I have lived with a severe movement disorder caused by a stroke 19 years ago. I limp, carry a cane, and have very limited use of my left arm. I live a full life in spite of it. I’m sure I have asked for help every day for 19 years for things such as opening jars, holding doors open, carrying various items, cooking, tying shoelaces, and sundry physical tasks I struggle with on a daily basis.
I am fortunate to be able to go grocery shopping. The store I frequent has help available to push my cart out to the sloping parking lot and put my bags into my car. The cart got away from me once when I took it to the car by myself and rolled downhill with my groceries, purse, and cane in it. I could not run after it. Some kids retrieved it for me, and it was then that I realized I should always ask for help in the store to get my food safely to my car.
The store hires people with mental and developmental disabilities. One woman who works there saw me in the checkout line and excitedly ran over to tell me she would help me to my car. The customer in front of me got confused and told her she didn’t need help. She walked away without paying because she was so flustered. She left her cart by the register after she paid.
I told the woman who offered to help me that I did need help. She packed my bags and put them in the cart that was left behind by the other customer. After I paid, she started walking out of the store pushing my empty cart along with the one she loaded about 6 bags of groceries in. It looked unecessary to me to have both of them. I suggested that she put everything in one cart. She seemed angry and said, “No, two carts!” She was physically able to push both of them out to the parking lot and back to the store, but didn’t seem to comprehend why it made no sense. It sounded to me like it was the only reasonable thing for her to do based on her reaction to my suggestion. I didn’t force the issue as it clearly made all the sense in the world to her. I watched her easily walk both carts to my car, put the bags in my trunk, and walk both carts back to the corral near the entrance to the store.
If I had the slightest twinge of envy for her physical abilities, I quickly realized that her mental limitation probably posed more of a challenge for her on a daily basis. The experience made me feel grateful to understand that 2 carts are not necessary to get 6 bags of groceries out to the car even if I’m not able to safely get 1 cart out to the car by myself.