I have a genetic neurological condition called spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) that greatly affects my balance and coordination. I inherited this condition from my father, but it is progressive, and it hasn’t yet affected me to the point where I need to use mobility aids in my day-to-day life.

Recently, I went to see a band called M83 at The Eastern in Atlanta. The last time I went to this venue, I stood toward the front of the crowd to watch the band. Whenever I wanted to close my eyes and really feel the music (not so much dancing as rhythmically nodding), I would lose my balance and stumble into my boyfriend or other people next to me in the crowd.

We all need to lean on each other for support sometimes
—whether that’s literally leaning on a cane to give you better balance or reaching out a hand to a friend.

I didn’t want to worry about this for M83, so I decided to bring a cane I had bought that hadn’t yet ventured out of my closet. I felt incredibly insecure. Everyone might be judging me or thinking I didn’t really need the cane. I imagined everyone staring at me, thinking, Who is this 30-something woman who looks completely capable of walking without a cane? And why does she even want to stand up for this show?

Bringing the cane to the concert turned out to be a wonderful idea. Not only was I able to completely immerse myself in the music without worrying about falling, but navigating the world with obvious physical assistance—even for one evening—taught me these three things:

1. It’s pointless to worry about what others are thinking.

Not once did I experience a moment of feeling judged or criticized, but even if I had, I cared much more about the music than what any of the random strangers thought of me. I realized my fears were ridiculous. As a concertgoer, had I ever once spent any time looking around and judging the crowd?

Being self-conscious in a crowd may seem normal, but it’s never a valuable use of time to worry about what others are thinking. Even if someone expresses a good opinion about you, you may be placing too much importance on the thoughts of others. As Wayne Dyer, Ed.D., said, “What other people think of me is none of my business. One of the highest places you can get to is to be independent of the good opinions of other people.”

2. People generally want to help others.

The staff member at the door smiled as she made sure I could walk through the metal detector without my cane. Another staff member immediately showed us where the elevator was. He chatted about the show as he rode with us and offered to take us to the disabled section at the front where we could sit. I declined—after all, wanting to stand was the whole reason I brought the cane—but he reminded me to ask him for help if I wanted to sit down.

While initially this kindness made me feel uncomfortable, eventually I realized the staff of The Eastern was going out of its way to be accommodating. I also thought about my father, moving through the world with his walker and later his wheelchair. Hadn’t I witnessed the vast majority of people going out of their way to help him in restaurants, stores, and so on?

Initially, I was skeptical. Were these people genuine in their niceness? But what if the simple sight of a cane, walker, or wheelchair jolts people into paying attention, into making an effort to be nice and helpful? It gave me hope for humanity.

3. It isn’t all or nothing.

It’s a common misconception that people with disabilities need the same mobility aids every day. This simply isn’t the case. Sure, eventually SCA progresses to a point where a wheelchair is needed at all times, but my father, for example, still uses a walker in the house and a wheelchair when he goes out.

Aren’t our bodies constantly shifting in abilities anyway? Maybe you get sick with the flu, and you greatly need the assistance of flu medication. Maybe you get into a car accident and have to use crutches for a few months. Maybe the natural process of aging slows the body down.

So maybe some days, I’ll want to use my cane. Maybe some days, I won’t. Mobility aids are just that—aids. They are tools to help. Use the tools when you need them.

4. Asking for help makes you more present.

With the cane, I was able to enjoy the show as I had in the past, before I had any balance issues. As M83 played so many songs I had fallen in love with, I swayed to the music without worrying about falling on everyone next to me.

I thought about the handles in my shower that I can grab if I’m losing my balance. How much easier is it for me to be present in the shower—to feel the hot water on my skin or smell the delightful aromas of my shampoo—if I’m not worried about falling?

It’s not just people with disabilities who need help. Maybe you need someone to talk to, maybe you need financial help, or maybe you have a more basic and immediate need like food or shelter.

We all need to lean on each other for support sometimes—whether that’s literally leaning on a cane to give you better balance or reaching out a hand to a friend. The most important thing I learned is that most people will be there to take your hand when you need it.

About the Author

Sara Crawford is a digital content specialist at Unity World Headquarters. She is also a playwright and the author of Time After Time as well as The Muse Chronicles trilogy. For more information, please see saracrawford.net.

Sara Crawford


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