When I think of my season of not walking, there is one story that stands out. I’ll probably remember it when I’m 80.
School shopping is a time honored tradition in our family, something my two daughters and I look forward to eagerly. So, despite the uneasiness of my first real public event in a wheelchair, I was determined to go to Spokane with the ladies and spend the day. Nick went strictly as moral support, shopping being an item on his “mostly avoid” list.
Nick pushed me into the Spokane Valley Mall and I instantly wanted to disappear. I loathed the attention and having people look at me. Having someone push me made feel small and helpless. How do you hold your hands and feet so that they look the least awkward? (I decided on hands demurely in my lap and ankles crossed). The girls, being teenagers, were able to go to stores alone but this was a departure from our normal habit of all going together. It’s usually my job to sit in the dressing room, comment and find sizes. I love it.
This time was different. The stores where they like to shop have full racks and narrow aisles, too small for a wheelchair. I went into American Eagle because the girls wanted me to see what they’d picked out but I couldn’t get past the first ten feet. Eventually I got close enough to the register to pay so they could move on to the next store and I got in line behind another adult. The man ahead of me left, but instead of serving me next the cashier motioned to a line of people on the other side of the store. I sat there motionless for five minutes. I didn’t have the nerve to raise my voice and ask if she would consider helping me. I felt stupid and out of place. Finally she looked up and said, “Ma’am, if you’re waiting to check out you’re in the wrong line. You have to go back there.” She pointed to a line that stretched towards the back of the store. There was no way my wheelchair was getting back there. The entire line of people stared silently at me. I stared back in horror for a moment and then turned and wheeled towards the door. I didn’t know what to do. I was alone and too proud to be honest with the clerk (who was clearly lacking in sensitivity). Nick walked in and I burst into tears. He took one look at me, got the items and told me to wait out in the mall.
I am quite aware that there are many who have it way worse than me. There are those who have never walked in their lives, people who are dying of diseases, just to name a couple of possibilities. Regardless of whether or not I had a right to be upset, I was. I was stripped bare. I wanted to be assertive but I was silent, I wanted to be strong but I was weak. I was forced to come face to face with my pride. I didn’t want to be a needy woman who had to ask for favors or special help. This whole situation got at something very deep in my soul. Stuck I was in a place not of my choosing but one in which I had to learn to accept vulnerability and neediness. God help me. Thankfully, He did. Another stop on my road to learning what it means to live “not matter my lot, though has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”