How to Help the Neighbors Keep Busy

by Brice Carroll on January 1, 2009 - 3:49pm

QUEST Vol. 16, No. 1
Brice Carroll lives in Hot Springs, Ark. He has limb-girdle muscular dystrophy.

Because I’m in a wheelchair, sometimes my wife Sharon and I need help around our place. Tom and Diane, A.K., David and Lenee, Scott, Doug, Robby, Darrel, Brian, Don and Dave are just a few of our neighbors who are always quick to respond. The best thing is, they do it for free.

One’s the resident surfer (he’s never surfed but he is very laid back), three are motorcycle owners (although only one could be mistaken for a Hell’s Angel), another is a retired two-star general and several are in construction-related businesses. Some are in sales, power generation, or lumbering, and some are retired.

I can’t repay their help with my own physical labor. Fortunately, I can repay them with my sparkling wit, insightful analysis, disarming charm and sage advice. Yes, me. Just because no one but me has the courage to admit that I have these qualities doesn’t mean others don’t notice them. To be honest, even though I constantly give out wise advice, I’ve never given any sage advice. But if a neighbor ever plants any sagebrush, hey, I’m there.

I also can help them by getting information for them off the Internet, providing them with copies of my brilliant magazine articles, and making them feel needed by asking them to fix things that are broken. They must be pretty needy, based on how often things get broken around here. And no, I don’t want to discuss who does most of the breaking.

There are a few highlights of their assistance that are worth mentioning.

For example, two neighbors helped out when I was going down a hill in my yard while trying out a new wheelchair, hit a bump and fell out onto my head. It really was a minor injury. It only hurt when they laughed. No, they didn’t really laugh, but my wife, Sharon, did when they told her. And they shouldn’t have told her. Especially after they took the $20 in hush money.

Another time a neighbor pulled us up an icy hill with his tractor. (After I assured my wife we could drive down and back up with no problem).

They’ve cut up fallen trees, used their tractors to smooth the gravel in our driveway, helped build a flower bed, and plugged a leak in our air conditioning ducts. They’ve also fixed our lawn tractor after a major crash (Sharon), when the muffler fell off, when it got stuck in the mud at the lake shore (Sharon) and a few other mishaps (mostly Sharon).

Most recently, a few of them helped us put our dock back together after a flood. Of course, I was there to supervise and offer encouragement. After a few minutes of my advice and encouragement, they said that they’d had enough. But they came back and continued working when I promised I’d go back inside and leave them alone.

They’ve also helped us out with our pontoon boat. They’ve helped diagnose mechanical problems, made minor repairs and given helpful advice. But they’re especially helpful about towing us in when the boat conks out while we’re in the middle of the lake. Fortunately, we’ve been able to return the towing favor a couple of times. 

When they help us, they won’t take any pay for it. I try to pay them back by offering quality gifts. Anything I don’t want anymore and can’t sell, I offer. They’ve never taken me up on it.

I have a suspicion that the real reason they help is not because of me, but because of Sharon. If the neighbors didn’t help with such things, the burden would fall on her. Plus she’s always friendly and helpful to them. She gives free haircuts, tends their animals when they’re gone, entertains their kids, takes the neighbor ladies out on our boat, brings food to get-togethers and always seems happy.

The only person in the neighborhood that Sharon occasionally gets mad at is me. And I’m always innocent. You can check with my mother. She thinks I can roll on water. But I’m only human and there may have been a few times when I’ve been less than perfect. I don’t recall any, but there is a slight possibility.

I sure won’t be protesting my innocence to the neighbors whenever she gets mad at me, though. I know who they’ll blame.

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