My day starts by nearly filling my Handi-Van with passengers in wheelchairs, and my last one of the group is no exception.
He lives in a public housing complex very near the heart of Honolulu called Mayor Wright Homes, which has been recently renovated. As I approach however, his building looks like it has never seen much in the way of maintenance. I pull into the lot, find his apartment door and begin deploying my lift.
My passenger (a man, perhaps thirty-years-old) calls to me from his door for help. He is standing, hopping on his left leg and struggling to hold the screen door open. A wheelchair is on the ground to the left of his stoop. There is no ramp. I go to him.
I hold the screen door so the man can better steady himself. As I do, I look at him and smile. The man gestures to the wheelchair and speaks in very broken English. I know what he needs and release the door. As I position the wheelchair and take the door again so he can turn around and sit, I glance inside his apartment.
A woman (perhaps in her forties) get’s up from the couch inside and crosses the room. She has a look on her face that appears to me as a combination of profound boredom and annoyance. She disappears into another room. I can feel the anger welling up in me, and I fight it. Who am I to judge?
As the man lowers his body into the wheelchair and positions himself, he calls into the apartment. A little boy, perhaps two-years-old appears and looks up at me. The boy has that child’s smile of pure joy and excitement. In this moment he is so very happy, one cannot think of anything else. This moment when he is being summoned by his daddy to help out with something. He looks up at me and shares the smile. My previous struggle with anger (and shame for having felt it) disappears.
The man speaks to his radiantly smiling son. The boy shouts with joy and goes off into the apartment and returns with a blanket. The man takes the blanket and covers the amputated stump of his right leg.
As I drive to take this man to his dialysis appointment, my mind is devoid of words and even thought.
Nothing. It’s like these (thoughts and words) are things no longer part of me, but clinging to the surface of me. Each contained in a little box of it’s own.
I don’t know what to think, so I don’t try. I have my job to do and I’m so very blessed to be doing it. My other passengers chat among themselves. Happy to be going home after a long day.
My long day is just beginning and I am ready for it.