I am fortunate to be able to say that the experience of climbing stairs has been pretty easy for me. I was raised in a four-level home and traversed stairs all the time. I zipped around campus as a college student and rarely used an elevator. Just give me a railing to hang onto and a back pack to carry my items and I am good to go! However, the scenario quickly changes when I am faced with the need to ascend and descend stairs where there are no railings. Suddenly, this convenient form of elevation becomes instantly inaccessible. Scaling bleachers at a sporting event are a prime example of this conundrum. No longer can I independently climb in an upright position like the rest of the spectators. I either have to crawl on all fours so I can use the seats themselves as a form of stabilization or I have to ask for help. Either way, it’s frustrating, mentally taxing, and at times, makes me feel childish. Little kids take their parent’s hand when they climb stairs. Little kids crawl on all fours. Adults do not. Young adults especially do not. The experience of having to climb stairs can also be confrontational to my pride and sense of reality. Most days, I forget that I have cerebral palsy, forget that I have certain limitations, but when I am faced with stairs that I cannot climb I am reminded of my condition. Stairs become the enemy.
Except last weekend.
Last weekend stairs become my friend. Last weekend I was asked to read an Advent scripture as part of the service at Church of the Open Door. I gladly accepted the invitation! I love my church and welcome the opportunity to speak publicly. I also knew that accepting this invitation would involve climbing the stairs up a very large platform in order to read. Thankfully, the invitation also included the opportunity to have a friend join me in this endeavor. I turned to my friend Camry for this role. With some reservation, I told Camry, “I need you to help me on and off the stage.” While I love and trust Camry, part of me wished I didn’t have to ask her for help. I wished I could climb the stairs flawlessly without assistance. I wished I didn’t see climbing stairs as a challenge, as the enemy, as a reminder of my limitations. But if Camry wasn’t with me last weekend, I would have missed out on some major blessings! Prior to going on stage, I was nervous. I usually read in front of 20+ students on a daily basis, not the 2,500-3,000 people that come to Open Door on a weekend! Camry calmed me down; made sure my microphone was situated, and prompted me when it was time to go on stage. As she took my hand up and down the stairs, I didn’t feel that familiar sense of shame. Instead, I felt like a child again, calmed, comforted, and embraced. I welcomed her participation in my state of vulnerable dependence. Her presence and needed touch enriched the experience. Stairs, I realized didn’t need to be seen as an enemy to be conquered. Instead, they could serve as a loving friend holding me in her embrace.
Thoughts to Consider: When have you encountered a situation where asking for help put you in a place of vulnerable dependence? Did you welcome this opportunity?
Want to read more? Mitch Albom touches on the topic of enjoying dependency in his great book, Tuesdays with Morrie.