27 January 2019
Many years ago, my grandmother needed to see a doctor. The doctor’s clinic was on the 2nd level of an old shop house. Climbing a steep flight of narrow stairs to seek relief was unavoidable.
Till this day it hurts to recall her efforts to go up and to come down, holding onto the wall for dear life as the stair way had no railing and was too narrow to accommodate my dad or me to be next to her to give some assurance.
These days my own mobility challenges have given me some understanding of the do’s and don’t’s when assisting people, including children, who need support when walking.
At lift lobby and on the road, I’ve seen old folks with walking cane having their free arm held by their caregivers and being dragged along as they try to keep pace with the caregivers’ walking speed which is about one or even only 1/2 a step ahead.
In the past I kept these observations & opinions to myself. Either the situation was too far away from where I was to intervene or I wanted to “mind my own business.”
But yesterday it happened again.
An old lady in her 80s was using a 4 point walking cane while a family member took her to the taxi stand at the JEM shopping mall.
Bent and small, the old one in matching floral blouse and pants struggled to lift her walking cane with one hand, while her other hand was being held by her caregiver.
The caregiver, a cheerful woman in her mid-40s obviously loved the grandmother, but was not conscious of how her pace might be adversely affecting the person she was helping.
The old lady was nearly keeling over as she was being dragged along, presumably to beat the taxi queue.
When they passed me I blurted out to the caregiver: “It’s very painful and tiring for her to be pulled along like this. You have to follow her pace, not the other way round.”
We just have to imagine what’s like having our arm pulled while we try to keep our balance and put up with the discomfort in the armpit area due to overextension of the arm.
People receiving help either cannot or dare not articulate their pain lest they be perceived as being demanding or ungrateful.
A moment of recognition came on. She must have realised that if her grandmother could follow her pace, she wouldn’t need a walking aid or be held.
She thanked me & started to slow down.
“And whoever is waiting for you. Let them wait. They will understand,” I found myself saying this without knowing why.
But now I know. Each of us who are quick to glorify speed and dismiss slowness, will one day have to face the inevitable slowing down and to wait for others to show grace to us.
So the old person who needs help to move, the fearful child who needs more thinking time, and the sick animal that can only take small bites are not burdens to be tolerated. They are providing precious opportunities to practise slowing down, so that those blessed enough to help, may truly offer Love and experience Love in return.