L e s son 1
Lighten your soul: it’s
kind to ask for help.
Simply by starting to read this book, you are already finding help in
a way and looking for lessons or ways to better yourself. You may
even just be looking to relate to someone else, someone like you, or
someone unlike you. But I guess first we have to ask ourselves, What
is help? It can come in so many shapes and forms. For our purposes,
we will define help as something that someone can do to make one’s
life easier or better. This isn’t the same as a favor; rather, it is simply
a self less gift that people can offer to one another. Something that
requires no responsibility but instead is given freely because one can.
When it all comes down to it, why would we not do what is best for
those around us?
On the other hand, asking for help is often seen as a weakness,
and to those who are already looked upon as lesser than or weaker
than, it’s not a step we often want to take. It can be seen as a crutch that is taken advantage of, or even something that is completely
depended upon. We are here to change this view. This lesson is
not just for people of similar stature but for all those needing some
assistance but hesitating to ask out of fear or embarrassment. It’s for
those hardheaded folks who refuse to ask for help as they preach
independence and base their self-worth on that. It’s likely these same
people who refuse to ask for assistance are the ones who really need
it and would benefit from it the most.
When you are younger, asking for help is just what you do. There
is no burden of guilt that comes with asking your mom to help you
blow-dry your hair for a special holiday or asking your dad to open
the jar of peanut butter that was closed just a bit too tightly. As a
young person, you usually have people around you to help you no
matter where you go. As we become older, it seems like fewer people
are there to help, or at least fewer are offering to help in exchange for
nothing; but if you look closely, there are still many helpers out there.
Unfortunately, and in this case only, having a strong sense of
empathy for those around us can hinder us. Usually, empathy is
kindness and compassion for others, but when it comes to asking
for help, it can be more of a heavy weight we carry. Before I ask for
help, I often have to think, Am I being a burden or a bother to this person?
Should I just try another way before annoying anyone else?
“Burden,” “annoying,” and “bother”—all words that have run
through my self-talk too many times before. The list goes on and
on. At the end of the day, your self-talk can convince you to not to
ask for help, but that does not mean it’s the truth. You have to know
that you need to lighten your soul. It’s kind to ask for help.
Often, in my experience, help comes in the form of embarrassment.
Ever since I was a child, I was taught to be independent, which is
1 1 Big Lessons I ’ve Learned as a Little Person
what all parents want their children to be and all children want
of themselves. It wasn’t until I was a little older that I realized the
discrepancies between my situation and that of my peers. In my
younger years, I was oblivious to any differences at all, or I wasn’t
made to see them yet.
Then at the young age of seven, I could no longer reach items
in school that my peers could. This included items in the lunch line,
shelves in the classrooms, and parts of the board. I would try to eye
which part of the chalkboard I could reach to see if I should even raise
my hand to volunteer to write up an answer, but usually, I estimated
incorrectly and would come up short. I would take that dreadful trip
to the board, not be able to reach where the question was written,
and write the answer down on the chalk or marker tray. It felt like
defeat walking back, with my head hung low. Then I would look
back at where my answer was compared to everyone else’s. My
teachers, who always meant well, would usually move my answer up
for me. This help was meant to be kind, but it did not feel great. I
felt embarrassing. I felt heavy, and I felt as though I was not enough.
The most memorable part of my life as an elementary student was
needing help to reach the water fountain. I would usually just skip
the water fountain after gym or recess, pretending I was not thirsty.
We’d come back after a game of dodgeball or scooter races with
beads of sweat on our faces, but nope, I was fine. My dad, a teacher
at the school, and my mom had a stool placed at the hallway water
fountain for me. I was then able to easily drink from the fountain,
but just seeing the stool reminded me that I was different. It was a
constant reminder that I needed help with something that none of my
classmates did. It was a constant reminder that I was different and that
normal fixtures were not made for me. This was a heavy lesson to
carry as a child, but it would have to be learned eventually. It wasn’t until I would see other kids using it, even if they didn’t need it, that
I felt more comfortable and grateful that my parents had done this for
me. This was my first experience with equity that I can remember,
and definitely my easiest.
Forget about a small stool, though; my feats and lessons would
become bigger as I grew up in a school that was not very handicap
friendly. Once I was in middle school, I began a series of limblengthening
surgeries. This would leave me wheelchair-bound for
two years between many different procedures. The option of being
homeschooled was the normal route to take while undergoing these
procedures, but it wasn’t a road I was ready to travel down. I knew I
at least had to fight to go because school was my life, and I lived to
see my friends. I could not accept this idea that I was not going to
school, even if it meant having constant cramping pains, training my
bladder, or the sheer complications that come with going to school
in a wheelchair. Pain was not about to stop me from trying.
Arriving at school, I had to enter through the band room, as
it was the only entrance that was level with the ground. I would
swerve my way past music stands, xylophones, and the large piano
in the front of the room before reaching the hallway. There was no
elevator in the building to get me to the second f loor. This is where
a lot of embarrassment came into play. My classes were generously
moved to the first f loor, which was not so fun for my peers to have
to be downstairs with the younger kids. This left me feeling sorry
for them and carrying around extra guilt in my chair as I knew their
classes were moved just for me.
Three classes—home economics, technology, and library—could
only be held on different levels because of the classroom setup. This
forced my mom, my mom’s friend Carol, and my dad to carry me up
and down the stairs each and every morning for the first period of the
1 1 Big Lessons I ’ve Learned as a Little Person
day. I always hoped we would get it done before the bell rang so that
no one would see me dangling from their arms and looking helpless.
Instead of dreading this, I should’ve been grateful to the adults who
were helping me in such a generous way. Little did I know that they
were happy to do it. They enjoyed seeing me with my friends and
in school, which otherwise would have added great loneliness to the
most challenging time of my life.
Did it feel kind at the time that I needed them to support me in
so many ways? Absolutely not. But later, I learned how it made them
happy to help me, how they actually enjoyed starting their mornings
with me at school, and how they wouldn’t have had it any other
way. This would unite them in a way that wouldn’t have happened
otherwise. It was an opportunity, and it was kind.
Still, as an adult, I find myself not wanting to ask anyone for
help, as my life seems to be dependent on others at times.