When My Extraordinary Loved Ones Help Me by Doing Ordinary Things
It seems trendy to talk of “ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” You see this phrase all over the place, and it’s meant to make us feel that we, too, can be extraordinary. That’s great, but to me it does a disservice to a lot of people who are truly extraordinary. They do ordinary things, but because they are so extraordinary themselves, they have an extraordinary impact.
I’m a disabled young adult living in Cambridge, UK. Every day — multiple times a day — I am helped by people who are extraordinary doing ordinary things.
For example, one of my friends is always around to help me with my wheelchair. He opens doors, helps with steps, lifts the chair into my car, puts it in a safe place when I’m in a different seat and so on. All of those things are pretty ordinary. We all hold doors open and put things into our cars every day. The difference is that he helps me because he knows I need help, and he knows he can provide it. That makes him extraordinary, and I am grateful.
My mum is certainly not ordinary. Like most mums, she looks after me whatever the issue. She still goes beyond the call of duty, though. She makes an effort to make my food look really attractive when I’m feeling too tired to eat — and it helps. She lifts our dog onto my lap if I want a cuddle or gently removes her if I need a bit of space.
She drives me to and from hospitals and competitions, and hangs around waiting for me — whether its waiting for me to wake up from anesthetic, to complete a dressage test or to finish a half-marathon. She’s there when I’m scared of brain scans because of my claustrophobia. She’s there when I need someone to take me home after a sedated procedure. She’s there when I need someone to fight my corner for me. These things are all ordinary. They involve driving a car, or sitting in a waiting room or cooking a nice meal. They are ordinary, but she is extraordinary.
Another of my friends is certainly not ordinary. Along with a loyal group of friends from the Cambridge University Riding Club, she has helped to turn my life around in the last year. She volunteers at my Riding for the Disabled center ,and now she has welcomed me onto the university’s (able-bodied) team. Because of her, I am now able to achieve things I would never have thought possible on my own. I’ve ridden in competitions, I’m improving as a rider, I love being with the horses and I’ve met so many new people. She has brought something wonderful into my life, just by being her. She has had an extraordinary impact because she herself is extraordinary.
At the wheelchair racing group, we have some extraordinary coaches. They devote their time, for free, to our group and to making sure we are safe, competitive and happy. They run or cycle alongside us on the roads, they time us as we race around the track, they open water bottles and look after discarded kit. They do ordinary things, but they are extraordinary people.
My boyfriend is pretty extraordinary. Over the last five years, he has seen me in pretty much every mood imaginable. We are probably closer than most couples because of all the things we’ve been through — it’s hard to be embarrassed when your partner has seen you throwing up, dealing with terrible diarrhea, unable to see because your eyes are too swollen from crying, awaiting a doctor to come and shove a finger up your bum to see what effect your back injury has had on your spinal cord, with the hairiest female legs in the world because your hands are too shaky to shave, lying on the floor and fitting again after intense training, or any manner of things. It’s hard to be embarrassed when you need him to detach toilet paper from the roll, or to cut your nails and dry your hair, to set out all your medication, to arrange your limbs in bed, or to pick you up off the floor yet again. These things are pretty ordinary, really — but he isn’t.
We often think of disabled people as being extraordinary — either because their lives are unusual or because they are inspiring. However, I think I personally am more ordinary than extraordinary. More than that, though, I’m lucky, because I am surrounded by some extraordinary folks who make my life truly extraordinary. I’m so grateful to them and to many others.
Keep doing the ordinary things — honestly, I believe those are the things that make you extraordinary. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
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