It’s always nice to find a helping hand, right? The people surrounding you that are aware of your vision impairment and are willing to be of aid in challenging moments. It’s important that we are always grateful for their kindness. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to be grateful. Maybe every once in a while you get fed up with the “charity” or “pity” offered by others. Or maybe their kindnesses seem almost pathetic to you because they are entirely useless to the point where they become annoying. When really it is you who feels pathetic and not the kind act bestowed upon you.
I have felt this way many times over again in various scenarios towards various people. It’s okay to get annoyed by kindness sometimes. You have every right to those feelings that hit you like a rock when you’re handed a flashlight or someone grabs your arm. It may in reflection seem wrong to hold resentment against kindness, but it comes with the territory of vision impairments. Just one more thing to grin and bear.
Here’s an account of one of my more recent run-ins with double-edged kindness.
I walked into my seventh period class on the last week of school. It was one of those classes that wasn’t really a class anymore as it was so close to summer. Somehow the decision had been made to go sit outside until class was over. I didn’t care either way. We all walked down the stairs and out the door.
Then there were two concrete steps right outside the door. You know, the kind where you can’t tell where the ledge of the first one drops off so you have to feel with your foot for the edge. I was rushed because of the people behind me so I almost tripped down the step when the teacher grabbed my elbow and helped me the rest of the way down. I was grateful for her help and we continued farther outside.
After class that same day when we went back inside, my teacher asked if I needed help up the stairs. I could clearly see the separation now from the ground angle and politely declined her offer. Still, I couldn’t help but feel a little annoyed.
Later that week, we went outside again. This time, my teacher asked if I needed help on the stairs in the building. I shook my head no and kept walking. I felt vastly more annoyed that the day before and a little incompetent. It’s not like I had walked up and down those stairs every day of the school to get to her class or anything.
Then when we reached the concrete stairs this time, my teacher helped again.I appreciated it, but less this time.
Then my teacher asked if I was okay walking up a slight incline in the grass. I mean, what is that? It was just grass.
Needless to say,m I was annoyed
I felt pathetic. Weak. Helpless.
I was annoyed. But I was annoyed at myself.
Everything I was feeling combined into this annoyed frustration with my own limitations and how pathetic I thought I must look to other people. I hated myself for what I couldn’t do. Hated that I needed my teacher to step up and help me down those stairs. Couldn’t stand that she was so careful around me whenever she thought I might be struggling. It’s hard to need help with an action as trivial as walking down a few stairs. Those overpowering emotions consumed me and I felt like I wanted to scream at my teacher to leave me alone.
But it wasn’t her fault. I wasn’t annoyed with her at all. She was kind enough to help me when I needed it, even if I didn’t want it. I projected my anger with myself onto her because it’s easier to blame another person’s kindness than to own up to your own weakness. I greatly appreciated her help because I needed it, but that didn’t erase the frustration I had with myself.
Annoying kindnesses can be a common occurrence for all of us visually impaired individuals, and that’s okay. We have every right to our annoyance, as long as we don’t take it out on the person offering the kindness. They are only trying to help and we have to respect them for that.
It is also okay to refuse kindness, even if it would be helpful. Sometimes it’s easier to struggle through the dark than pretend that the dim flashlight being held by the person next to you is actually helpful. It’s also important to accept help when you need it. We don’t always want that person next to us to grab our elbow and lead the way, but it can be a necessary aid when you are working with less than perfect vision.
The two-faced nature of annoying kindnesses can be difficult to handle. We have to appreciate the kindness while we combat the rising annoyance. It’s hard, there’s no way around it. Sometimes it helps me to remember all the different things that I’m good at, so maybe it’s okay if I need a little help with this one aspect of my life. Everyone needs help sometimes and who knows when it will be my turn to help someone else. Maybe if we all helped each other more then it wouldn’t be so hard to accept help when it is given to you.
Anyway, kindness it a good thing, whether it is found annoying or not. We all need to learn how to give and take kindness a little bit better. Then that dull flashlight in the middle of a dark parking lot might bring a smile to our faces instead of a scowl.