She can hear you, you know

We stood in line in front of the desk at the hospital, my elderly client leaning heavily on my arm and on her cane. We waited patiently for her turn to check in and see her doctor. When the line moved forward, she walked with pain, labored but determined.

A man saw us and came over. He addressed me. “Would your mother like a wheelchair?”

It was a She can hear you, you know moment. The contrast between his obvious kind-hearted desire to help, and the amazing rudeness of not addressing my client herself, left me breathless. I had no idea how to react.

I am sorry to say, I snapped at him. “She’s not my mother, and she doesn’t need a wheelchair.”

Looking back, I wish I had gently thanked him and invited him to ask the same question of my client. That would have been a more appropriate and politic response. But really, why would someone be kind enough to offer a stranger a wheelchair, but not kind enough to dignify her by addressing her directly, person to person?

Maybe that man felt that those who can’t walk easily also can’t understand, or can’t answer a question.

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