Everybody loves giving. I personally enjoy that warm fuzzy feeling I get when I see the happiness that I have brought someone else. I’ve always really wanted to be helpful. It made me feel like a good person. And whilst my actions rendered me a good person, I was worthwhile.

Jen with some of her besties, Lisa and Cami, before Matric Dance

Chronic illness, however, makes this difficult. The other day I was riding on my little electric mobility scooter, through school, and I heard a soft clinking sound. I looked up to see a girl had dropped a couple coins. I didn’t see her face, but she was on the phone and clearly feeling flustered. Healthy Jenna would have rushed to her assistance.

I, however, was forced to notice that she was standing at the top of a medium-sized flight of stairs, which I would struggle to climb. I realised that bending down to pick up the coins would be just as much of a challenge, and that they had scattered as they fell and lay reasonably far from one another… which meant more walking. In short, I saw that were I to rush to help this girl, I’d be left gasping for air, collapsed against the perfect whiteness of the nearby wall.

So I stopped. Looked for a moment. And then for the first time in my life, I drove on.

I guess this doesn’t sound like such a big deal. To be honest, the girl only dropped 3 or 4 coins, and had probably picked them up before I reached the next corner. She has no idea the impact that her moment of clumsiness had on me. But for some reason, this incident stuck in my head, and I have spent the past two weeks trying to reassure myself about it.

Why? Because it represents something I’ve been struggling to come to terms with lately – that physically, I simply can’t give as much as I used to. Giving has always been my way of affirming my worth as a human being, reassuring myself that I am an intrinsically good person.

Instead I am left in a situation where, in terms of small, everyday physical tasks, I am dependent on others. I am in a constant state of gratitude at school, as my peers help me carry school bags and lunchboxes around, but also a constant state of guilt, for needing them to.

Jenna and Kristi

Eventually I might even be comfortable with accepting the help I get offered. In the meanwhile, I suppose, I’ll find other ways to give back.

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