Thursday, June 7, 2007

It's A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Childrens' shows like Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street usually show a neighborhood and try to teach kids what I call sandbox 101- how to get along with each other- through the neighbors. It's a great learning tool for kids but I do think adults should have a show where they can get a refresher course every now and then.

And I think we could use an extra credit course on the topic of being a neighbor to a person with a disability.

I have had good experiences getting along with my neighbors. When I was growing up, my neighbors were like second, third and fourth sets of parents - right around the block. In Michigan, my neighbor who was elderly became a good friend. When I moved back East, I got along well with my neighbors.

I always took care of outside things like the lawn, would bring in and put out the garbage cans in a timely manner and do a neighborly favor. Going on a trip? I'd take the mail. Expecting a package? I'll watch out for it. Need a babysitterin an emergency? That's fine. Need help shoveling? No problem.

Then I acquired my disability. Suddenly I couldn't physically do some of the things listed above. My relationship with my neighbors changed. I had to hire and depend on others to do the outside things - and sometimes the garbage cans were not brought in and out on the exact day but a day or two later. Hints were dropped - verbal and nonverbal. Things became tense .

Once I was able to develop over time better ways to get these things done, things calmed down. Talking about it also helped - although it took time. What folks didn't get - and don't get - is that behind closed doors, I was dealing with the same situation that's outside 24/7. There were gaps in help due to limited resources.

But my neighbors didn't know that for one simple reason: they never came inside to find out despite invitations.

This is a ticklish subject because by no means am I criticizing anyone, just pointing out that humans tend to judge what they don't understand. It's not a matter of making it someone else's problem, but working toward understanding the change in circumstances living with a disability creates. I'm not trying to put anything on anyone or place expectations on people. For example, I'm not expecting my neighbors to help with my garbage cans on that one, two or three weeks out of 52 weeks a year when my help can't come over. It would be nice, but I don't expect it. I pay someone else. It's just that it might take a day or two to get someone to do it on those rare occasions. What I'm asking for is a reasonable response to my reality - not a free ride.

As I watch other people with disabilities move into the community and deal with similar issues, I am haunted by one question:

Where is Fred Rogers when we need him?


goldchair said...

I went through this stuff too with different neighbors. I'm paraplegic and able to haul garbage cans but not in the snow or high winds and rain - things blow too much, I slide and can get injured. In those rare circumstances sure would be nice to get a hand or at least not get yelled at for not doing it. Maybe people will read stuff like this and understand better.

Anonymous said...

My neighbor is disabled and lives alone. My husband and I will go over and help if we notice the garbage cans are out longer than usual. We understand it's not as if she can just go out and do it and although she pays extra to have it done sometimes the garbage company makes a mistake. It doesn't bother us and it's just as quick to just pull them in than complain about it. I like your attitude that you don't expect a free ride just understanding. That sounds very reasonable to me.


Sister Mary Martha said...

It's amazing to me, also, how those same people who judge what they don't understand will snap right out of it once they do understand. It gives me hope for the world.

hotwheelz said...

Anyone here run into a problem with parking? I had a handicapped spot put in front of where I rent so I can get out of my car with my wheelchair but it's always taken by a neighbor who isn't disabled but has a handicapped sticker for his mom who doesn't live with them. He sticks it up in the car and that's that. I talked to him but he cursed at me. Oh well. Nothing I can do about it so now I have to roll around the block. Kind of sucks.

Anonymous said...

In many states those placards come with ID cards. The person with the ID card is the only one who can use the placard. Call the police and explain the situation and ask them to check it out. If they come over and his mom isn't even living with him and he has the placard up he might have some explaining to do- a deterrent if nothing else.