Admitting When You’re Stuck

Clinical Expertise

Mar 1, 2016

By Chaplain Bernie Jorn
If you’re in a wheelchair and dare to venture into the world, sooner or later you’ll get stuck.

It’s inevitable. As for myself, I’ve been stuck in mud, potholes, gravel, cobblestones and garden mulch. My chair has shorted out in the rain, gotten hung up in leaf piles and trapped in snow banks.

Some of the best of these stories, shared by many, are the “old school” ones.   Everest and Jennings wheelchairs were great for their day, but the motors often overheated when climbing steep hills, which caused the fuses to blow. At that point you coasted backwards with no breaks or steering, bouncing, cursing and praying your way to the bottom. And there you sat in your busted chair… stuck again.

Getting Stuck in a WheelchairAt such times there is a process you go through, and I can tell you it is powerful and emotional. It happened to me on the beach just the other day. I had wavered off the hard sand and into the soft stuff.

Now if this happens, your only hope is to gun it, keeping the chair moving at all cost. If you are good at this, and I humbly admit that I am, there’s a possibility of escape. Yet this time the sand gave way and I bottomed out. Now the immediate reaction is not to accept defeat but to continue spinning out rooster-tails of sand, which only sinks you deeper. At some point you have to give up this physical fight, but that launches you into an even tougher mental one.

To get out of a hole you must first admit you are in one.

This takes more work than you may think, as it involves accepting powerlessness. Many wheelchair drivers are proud, free-spirited and fiercely independent. Such traits do not help when one is in a hole. The emotionality of the previous battle must be replaced by ingenuity and creativity if you are to escape. Hope now lies in the people around you, and your ability to connect with them.

Simply put, the key to regaining independence lies in admitting you are dependent. It’s the irony of all ironies! But here’s the thing – once you settle into that mindset of needing others, hope begins to return. Breathe deeply and wait, and someone will eventually stop to help. And I say this – I have never been so moved by the power of the human spirit and the kindness of strangers, as when someone stops. Looking back on nearly 40 years of these stories, I know that I remain feeling independent because of the compassion of these people.

Life is kind of like walking the beach – sometimes the sand feels solid, sometimes you’re pushing through soft patches, and then there are the sand traps. These are the times of hardship too daunting to face – the death of someone dear, the loss of a home or a job, the absence of something you can’t live without or as we often see, a major illness or injury. In such moments, we spin our minds looking for answers until we finally realize we are stuck.

Hope then lies not in ourselves, but in powering down and making that transition. Breathe deeply, calm your spirit, rest your mind, and wait. Time will pass as God waits with you, and when you least expect it someone will come along and stop. They will stop, because we live among people who dare to show love. They will show it in the most beautiful of forms and in ways that will amaze you.

I think the best of help comes from those who don’t realize their depth of kindness, but discover it when they meet that person who needs them most. In that moment they rise to something higher, performing feats of inexorable compassion. I have seen it time and again.

However you travel through life, continue to do so boldly. There will be pitfalls, so be careful yourself and keep watch for the person who needs you. And may God keep you safe on this journey, inspiring you to discover the beauty that lies on your path.


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