Okay. I have a confession to make. It is a simple truth about me that not many people know: I don’t like to ask for help.
That seems strange for me to say, given that I require the assistance of caregivers to dress, put my shoes on, get in the shower and drive me anywhere I want to go. But that is precisely my point. Because I need so much help with my day to day routine, asking for help with anything else often seems like I am taking advantage of people. So, I avoid it. Like the plague. But there was a situation that came up in my life recently that there was no way I could handle alone. And what I discovered in the process of dealing with it challenged one of my core beliefs.
I have always lived with my disability, and consequently, it has been drilled into me since before I could talk that independence was a good thing. My parents and various therapists reasoned that the more I could do for myself, the happier my life would be. In many ways, I have found that to be true. The less “caregiving” I need, the more people can focus on me as a friend, and not the support I require.
There have been times, though, when I have been known to take that to the extreme. More often than not, I have had the mindset that unless something was physically impossible to do on my own, I had to handle it myself. It was my responsibility. That was the end of the story.
Then a couple of months ago, a 90-foot hedge tree in my backyard was hit by lightning, which pretty much split the trunk in two. When I started to get bids for the cost of its removal, I was overwhelmed. It was going to cost thousands of dollars that I just didn’t have. I didn’t know what I was going to do.
At this point, let me share another detail about my life. One of my passions is wheelchair ballroom dance. Before I got involved about four and a half years ago, I was convinced there were things I was never going experience, limits I could never overcome. Me? Dance? Nah! It was never going to happen. You need an able body for that.
I was proven wrong. Once I saw a wheelchair ballroom dance performance, I was hooked. I watched, and I cried. I wanted to know how I could do what those dancers did. And I have. In the years since, I have learned to move in ways I once considered impossible, feeling graceful and beautiful in the process. Those feelings were new to me as well.
However, one of the biggest blessings of dancing for me doesn’t have anything to do with the physicality of it. My dance instructor is one of the best people I will ever know.
When our first instructor moved out of state to get married, it was hard to imagine that anyone would want to take his place. Dancing with wheelchair users is a pretty specialized skill and not one you can ask of any guy on a street corner. But Brandon isn’t any guy.
He started dancing in college and gave typical lessons for years. For the most part, he taught himself, through trial and error, space and timing required to dance with someone wheelchair mobile. As he got more confident, he got more creative and asked me to get more guts. Our dance moves got more complicated, and, dare I say, much cooler. These days, we have a couple of routines that are downright inspirational. Grin!
Off the dance floor, Brandon proved to be a good guy as well. The more I got to know him and trust him, the more I confided in him. Over time I came to consider him not only a friend but the surrogate younger brother that I have always wanted. So, when I asked him to pray about the situation with my tree, I knew that he would. What I didn’t expect was what else he would do.
A few days later, Brandon called me and said that he and his wife wanted to organize a fundraiser to help with the cost of cutting down the tree. At first, I resisted. It turns out I am just a tad bit stubborn when it comes to accepting help from other people. 🙂 But, Brandon asked me to let the people who love me help me, because he was pretty sure I would do the same thing for others if I could. “Besides”, he said, “you need the help.” He was right. I did need the help. I really wasn’t in a position to argue.
So, over the course of about a month, Brandon created a video, explaining the situation. He designed a website, with a PayPal account for donations. He organized a fundraiser, and he helped spread the word. In the end, enough money was raised to take down the tree. Everything was covered, without a dime coming out of my pocket. Insane? Indeed. Just miraculous! It boggled my mind that people, some of whom didn’t even know me, were not only willing but eager to help meet this need that I had. I was grateful. I was awed. And I learned something extremely valuable as well.
On the dance floor, Brandon has taught me many things. Waltz. Tango. Foxtrot. And on a good day, I can sort of do the Cha Cha if I really try.
But probably the most important lesson he has taught me through the years has nothing at all to do with dancing.
Sometimes it is necessary to step outside your comfort zone. In fact, sometimes that is the mst important step.