The Mighty Logo

4 Questions Justin Trudeau's Act of Kindness Should Make Us Ask

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

In 2014, now-Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau helped a man in a wheelchair down the stairs to the Montreal subway.

I originally saw this photo on a page I’m subscribed to on Facebook. It received many admiring comments, such as: “Swoon!” (I agree, Trudeau is very easy on the eyes,)  “This man is such a decent human being!” and “A politician in the news for acts of kindness! What a breath of fresh air!”

Justin Trudeau helps a man in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs.
Justin Trudeau helps a man in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs.

Although I don’t want to completely plow over the feelings of “Yay! We helped,” my viewpoint as a disabled woman who uses a wheelchair is somewhat different. I have questions about this situation and why it had to happen at all.

1. Where is the elevator, and why wasn’t he using it? I’ve since learned that in Montreal there are only four or five elevators in all of the metro stations combined.

2. Was carrying him down the stairs the only option? If so, that is unacceptable. (see #1)

3. Did the disabled man want to be photographed being helped? And…

4. How did the disabled person feel about receiving this help? There have been times when I’ve been helped in this way, and I’ve been polite and said “thank you,” but on the inside I’ve wondered “Why haven’t they gotten this problem fixed?” Or “why didn’t they have an elevator?” I try to be understanding, but at times my patience has worn thin.

I remember our senior trip in high school (to Canada, as it happens) where we went to a Broadway-type show. Our tickets had been purchased long before, and when we got there we discovered that our seats were in the balcony, and they didn’t have an elevator! They did offer to help lift my chair up the stairs, but I just kept thinking, “Why don’t you have an elevator? Seriously!” I refused their offer to lift me up the stairs, because the staircase was winding and I didn’t feel particularly safe with that approach.  Fortunately, they had seats available on the ground floor and I was able to enjoy the show.

So the next time you see a photo of someone helping a person in a wheelchair, after recognizing that the person did a good thing, think about why it happened in the first place. Instead of accepting what happened, brainstorm a few ways to really fix the situation.

Follow this journey on: Be Anxious About Nothing.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a meme, image or sign you’ve seen shared online that struck a chord with you, for good or for bad. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: May 29, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home