You’d be surprised at how much this happens. I was once on my way to a gig in Newcastle when the taxi driver said, out of nowhere, possibly straight after a throwaway comment about the weather or a bit of banter about the football, that he would pray for me. Perhaps more bizarrely, he then offered me a Bible to read on the journey because that’s a perfectly normal thing to do … I wonder if all his passengers get the same treatment.
I had no idea how to respond, but I had so many questions going around in my head. Why the hell was he carrying around a load of Bibles in his car? Had he just burgled a Premier Inn and ransacked all their rooms? Was this a new tactic by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to try to drum up some business? Whenever they used to come to my parents’ house when I was younger, my parents would always send me to answer the door. Instead of asking if I believed in the healing powers of the Lord, they’d take one look at me and never come back. I can have that effect on people.
When people say they’ll pray for me, I always wonder if they expect me to say, ‘Thank you.’ Am I supposed to be grateful? It’s not like I asked for their prayers and it’s certainly not that I need them. I hired the taxi driver to deliver me to my destination on time. I certainly didn’t hire him so that I could be delivered from evil along the way. I don’t even know what people are asking for in their prayers. Are they praying that I get my voice back? Are they praying that my disability goes away? Good luck with that. Or are they praying that I make it up the stairway to Heaven without the use of a Stannah stairlift?
Whatever you do, please don’t pray for me. It’s fine. I’m fine. More than fine. I’ve accepted my situation. It’s part of who I am and I’m generally happy with my life, certainly no less happy than most people. I know I’m sometimes hard to understand. I know I have problems drinking. And I know I’m shit at football. Admittedly it’s taken a while, but I’ve finally also accepted that I’m a Geordie. It could be worse ‒ at least I’m not a Mackem.
While I’m dishing out the advice, here’s another bit. Always try to give me space. I don’t mean that in the emotional sense of the word. I’m being very literal. If you can stop storing all your random junk in the disabled toilet, that would be a great start. But what I mean is that you need to give me room to live my life. Trust that if I want help, I’ll say so. And I think that goes for just about everyone with a disability. I’ll tell you what works for me. You’ll need to carry the drinks to our table, offer your arm when the stairs have no railing, and hold my hand through at least one major medical event. I’m a bit of a coward when it comes to hospitals. If you want to be the hero, that’s how to do it. Otherwise, back off and listen. Give my body the room and time it needs. I’ve lived with my disability all of my life. I know what I’m capable of. And I’m also very independent. So I want to do as much as possible for myself. Yes, it will take me a while to get my clothes off. If you and I ever find ourselves in an undressing situation (very unlikely, I know: you have standards, after all), I’d suggest you watch a movie while you wait. Probably one of the longer ones. How about The Lord of the Rings? All three, back to back, should just about do it. But please don’t assume you know best and smother me with your good intentions.
It feels so good to get that off my chest.