Skip to main content

What we need and what we get

How are you answering the age-old question "What do you want for the holidays this year?" If you are disabled it is likely your answer will veer from the usual. Here's a short and handy list to offer those who do not know you well enough to give you what you really need.

Give me encouragement. Living with what the rest of the world calls a "significant disability" is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes other people will remind you of your situation on a daily, hourly, or even minute-by-minute basis. Sometimes the press gets hold of someone who does something extraordinary despite not having the usual physical equipment to do so, and you have to explain endlessly why you haven't, say, climbed Everest without feet. Ask the people around you to schedule a time once a month to discuss how well you are doing. Go out for coffee or whatever at the same time.

Give me humor. Staying strong, working on healing, and just keeping on with keeping on is more than "challenging;" it's an endless struggle that requires grace, humor, and dogged determination. Some days you can do it. Some days you can't. Ask your friends and family to find one joke or funny story for you once a week. When they send them to you by email, letter, or phone, ask for a minute or two extra to laugh and enjoy each other.

Give me ways to get over myself. In the process of learning to live with a disability, which takes a lifetime, you learn you have abilities you never thought you'd have. But there is always more to learn. Ask those who wish to give you a gift to pay for a class or lessons in something you've always wanted to do: sing, knit, take apart an engine, whatever. Better yet, ask your loved one to take the lessons with you. You'll make friends in class regardless, but having an old buddy there would be even nicer.

Get me there. Yes. having a disability will probably give you enough resilience to figure out how to get home when someone upon whom you depend leaves you stranded fifty miles away. Ask those who have personal transport to get you to an appointment or two and get you back. Yes, there are services for that sort of thing but not everyone qualifies under the rather odd rules, and stories of being abandoned or forgotten are legion.

Get me on my way. Many of the disabled have an idea they could turn to profit, but don't know how to develop it. Give me a book about how to sell my products or ideas, or gather a long list of websites in one place. If I am ready, buy my products to give as gifts to others.

Get me organized. Physical restrictions may make it difficult for me to organize my home. Take a couple hours to help me get my closets and drawers organized or tidy up.

Give me safety. Trim shrubs in front of my windows, help me make sure doorways are secure but accessible, or give me a pre-paid cell phone so I can always get help or call 911.

Give me comfort. Having enough stamps to mail bills, enough socks to have warm feet, or enough tea to have a nice afternoon is sometimes beyond my means. A few coupons for fast food might also give me a reason to bestir myself and get out of the house once in a while. Pay the delivery charge for groceries, or chip in to a subscription for fresh produce delivery.

Give me the gift of you. An hour a month of your presence may be a lot to ask, but sometimes email and phone calls don't do it all. Seeing holiday lights, or checking up on a relation or friend at the same time would also be fun. Most of all, just carrying on a conversation with someone who isn't a medical provider or social worker would be a wonderful gift.

Take a look at who I am now. Take your cues from that. If I am now a whittler, help me with tools and supplies. If I am now a reader. help me with gift certificates to book stores. If I am now a giver but am unable to buy gifts for others, give me what I need to ease this anxiety. Give to support groups and other services those with my disability have constructed.

Best of all, take a little time to remember me once in a while during the year.