By Sarah Todd Hammer ’24
Before coming to Davidson, I knew the college was known for its sense of community. But until I started my freshman year and lived on campus, I didn’t quite know just how real that aspect would feel.
As a disabled student, I knew I was going to encounter numerous challenges as I learned to live independently on a college campus. In the years before I left home, I tried to learn how to do as many things for myself as I could. Although I have found ways to do most things for myself, there are still tasks I need assistance with, such as carrying items, opening food, or putting my hair in a braid.
My disability is rather unusual, which makes navigating daily tasks even more difficult. I can walk, but I have partial paralysis in my arms, shoulders, and right hand, and I can’t move my left hand. When most people see me, they don’t immediately think, “Oh, wow, she has a disability.” In fact, it’s possible for people to spend an entire day with me and never realize I’m paralyzed (even though my arms and hands do look different from most). And while I’m grateful people don’t notice my disability right away—although it’s a major part of me, it’s not the only part of me—this lack of immediate visibility can make it difficult for me to ask for help.
But here at Davidson, I’ve found I don’t encounter this struggle as much.
When I need help opening a food item, a quick text sent in my hall group chat brings someone to my room to help within a minute. When I can’t open the door to a building, the student at a table nearby is happy to help. When I venture out on my own to pick up food, Eloisa, a staff member, is sweet enough to put my meal and my phone in a bag with handles so I can carry them.
Stepping into Commons for lunch and dinner, I’m always greeted by every worker’s smiling face and upbeat attitude.
“Hi, Sarah Todd! It’s great to see you! Let me get someone to help you today.”
I never even have to ask for help; someone is always ready to assist me with getting my food and drink and carrying it to my table. They help me open my green box and silverware, and they have also offered to carry my food across campus when I don’t have a friend with me. Sometimes, the workers even playfully argue over who gets to help me that day. James and Jay never want to miss an opportunity to carry my food for me, and Edwin and Hai always look forward to giving me my to-go cup. There is always someone ready and eager to help me: from when I’m struggling to carry my food and drink back to my dorm room and my neighbor asks me if I need help, to the worker in Union carrying my dinner all the way back to Belk. It’s refreshing to leave my dorm and go grab lunch or dinner whenever I want, confident that I won’t run into any hiccups because there are always people to help.
I look forward to sharing meaningful conversations and laughter with those who help me. Everyone who assists me has not only enabled me to be independent at college, but they have also been part of creating friendships that are sure to last my entire four years here.
Just like the staff members at Commons, Union, and the Den, the friends I’ve made are always eager to help me with whatever I need—whether it be something as simple as opening a tube of toothpaste or helping me button my clothing. As I thank them over and over for helping me, they always tell me it really isn’t a big deal; it’s just what friends do.
But to me, it is.
When people are not only willing but eager to help, I am endlessly grateful. Because while the task might not require much effort, the fact that others care enough to put in some extra work to do something for me that I can’t makes me feel so accepted. To be able to live on campus without an aide and to feel confident that I have friends down the hall and upstairs who I can ask for help whenever I need is extraordinary.
All around campus, there is kindness. And in just my first month here at Davidson, I’ve already experienced this kindness that Davidson is known for in all its abundance.
Even through the masks and face shields, I can so easily sense everyone’s overwhelming graciousness and empathy. And, in my experience, it pervades.
Sarah Todd Hammer is a first year intended Psychology major from Atlanta, Georgia. She can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.