Photo by Maura Ebbs
Being disabled often makes one somewhat of a sitting duck upon whose feathers the milk of human kindness can be liberally poured, invited or otherwise... An element of immobility goes hand in hand with being disabled - albeit the inability to run for cover or to see incoming persons that, could one see, one would move to avoid. Friends in wheelchairs, when parked, have often been the victims of a ticketing from a passing traffic warden and as a blind person, with a guide dog, I've had more than my fair share of curb side lynchings where I've been frog marched across roads that I had no desire to cross.
In my experience airports and stations seem to provide the opportune moment should one want to spring oneself on an unsuspecting disabled person. Disabled people can often be spotted parked at various pick up and drop off points awaiting the next assistant in the relay of help required to deliver them on their way. We are quite simply like parcel post and, to my mind, the package is most vulnerable when stationary and waiting for the next leg of the journey.
Recently I was flying out of Heathrow and Uffa, my darling guide dog, and I had been parked at the International Departure Lounge where we were to wait for an hour or more until someone came to collect us and deliver us forth. it was 20 minutes into our wait when it happened. 'The Drive by Blessing'
I am quite accustomed to people stopping and asking interested questions as to the breed of Uffa for, although very handsome, as a black Labradoodle he is quite an odd looking fellow. As we waited, Uffa tucked neatly in by my feet watching the passing passengers, I had answered a round of friendly inquiries as to the origin of his species before falling victim to the 'Drive by Blessing.'
I suddenly felt my head being grabbed, not aggressively but firmly. between two hands. Alarmed, with my face slightly squashed as if between two lift doors, I asked excuse me. An American man, whose voice sounded quite elderly, then introduced himself - without however releasing his grip on my head. His voice was kind but determined, a little like his grip on my face.. 'I have been watching and listening and want to offer you my help' . 'With what?' I said feeling majorly irritated at this point and rather like a child having their cheeks squeezed by an over familiar but distant relation. "I am a healer and am able to do God's work by healing the sick and disabled,' 'Oh blast' I thought 'here we go'... He then proceeded to ask me if I was ready to see again.. Totally irritated by this point, but oddly not wanting to offend his faith and belief in his supposed powers, I answered, 'Gosh no, I am very happy being blind and I would really not wish to see again. I think it would be quite terrifying plus I am very lucky to have amplified my other senses through the loss of my sight. So thank you so much for your kind offer but I will have to decline but thank you again for thinking of me'. How very British of me, I thought. With this he released my head and proceeded to tell me that his wife was deaf and she too had refused his offer of healing as she felt that her deafness had allowed her to hear the voice of God...
He was actually a very dear man but, thinking about his actions as Uffa and I sat on the plane later that day, I thought how very dangerous it was to offer such hopes to strangers. Had I been a very religious person or someone desperately unhappy with their circumstances his failure to remove my handicap might have been the last emotional straw for me. I found it quite presumptuous , short sighted and unkind to quite literally pray on the vulnerable. Perhaps in the future I should wear a sign saying 'Disabled but Happy'...?