The Wheelchair Discount

June 3, 2010

The first time we got the Wheelchair Discount, I was a little annoyed. We were at a museum in Pigeon Forge (home of Dollywood), and a nice little old lady told me that she’d pretend Chloe was under three years old and let her in for free. I started to argue, because I always hated it when my parents pretended I was younger than I was to get discounts (“she’ll have the kids menu, please”), and because it felt like pity. But when I started to argue, she cut me off, saying “I had a son like her, and I know you need all the help you can get.” It was the “had” that got to me. This woman didn’t feel sorry for us, and she didn’t really think we needed to save the four dollar admission price; she was honoring her dead son.

So I embraced the wheelchair discount, because I realized that, when people try to do something nice for you, their motives are too complicated to worry about–just take it and say thank you. It’s always been hard for me to accept help, and I worry about Chloe getting singled out because of her disability, but when strangers offer to carry my suitcase as I push her wheelchair through the airport, I say “here you go.” And when the school photographer insisted on holding up the line to make sure he got a good shot of Chloe, then gave us an extra set of prints for free, I didn’t say “that’s not fair to the other kids,” I just took the wheelchair discount. Because we do need help. It’s not always the kind of help people have to offer, like opening doors we could more easily get through alone, or giving us extra school pictures, but why deny them the chance to be kind? And why deny ourselves the rare opportunity to say “yeah, having a wheelchair rocks.”

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