The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
—— Mahatma Gandhi
One of the first pickups of my shift yesterday was for a young man who uses a wheelchair. And the last pickup of the evening was for a middle-aged woman… who also uses a wheelchair. But the two couldn’t be more different in my eyes. And thus was my experience of transporting them where they needed to go.
Two completely different types of challenge.
The young man… strong, determined and obviously one who is used to expecting more of himself than of anyone around him. He had been cut down in his prime by circumstance and is now dependent upon this device that he has yet to embrace completely. He sees it as a burden (despite the fact that he sits on it) and although his strength of will and determination keeps him from utter despair, and drives him to work towards the new goals he has set for himself… my first meeting with him was a challenge.
I was challenged because it soon became clear to me that this young man’s frustration with his situation at his job, is a reflection of his frustration with his life here in Hawaii. With this realization, I found my mind hoping to hear his story. My first thought was that I might hear something in that story which I could use to reflect back to and help him to see his situation in a new light. One that might illuminate a path conducive to an outcome more in line with his original vision of where he’d hoped to be by now.
Before the incident that put him in that wheelchair.
Fortunately, I followed my instinct to share rather then to query. I simply told him my story. A story of a middle-aged man who is happily at peace with where he is now. In his job, his relationships, his living situation and his path. He has accomplishments he can be proud of and goals towards which he gladly gets up every day (even when it’s a struggle) and works with joy in every moment and anticipation of each new day.
This is my story. And in telling it, I found that I was gifting myself while simultaneously gifting the young man who listened. He listened and found inspiration for his own story. I didn’t need to hear that story. I only had to see that this was true. That he was inspired. He told me that he had always wanted to make a difference for people with disabilities and that his frustration with how things are for him now in Hawaii (a place he loves deeply) was simply a new challenge for him to look at. Perhaps he will leave Hawaii and go make a difference elsewhere…
“You can always come back” I said.
He looked up at me and smiled.
“Yes, I guess I can. I’m young and strong.”
“Yes you are, go change the world. Then come back and see what you can do with what that has taught you. So you can better help your beloved Hawaii.”
He smiled again…
My last pickup of the day was a middle-aged woman who also uses a wheelchair. I’ve known her for a few years and so I have had plenty of experience with what challenges I might encounter transporting her.
This woman uses the service my company provides (and apparently, any other service she can find) to benefit her and her family as much as she can possibly manage. She is strong-willed, determined and obviously one who is used to expecting as much as she can get, from everyone providing any kind of service to her. Like the young man, I don’t know the full nature of, or what caused her disability (it’s none of my business) but I do know that (unlike the young man) she can get up from her wheelchair and sit in a regular seat in the van.
My interactions with her are minimal, professional, polite and friendly. I am to the point and have learned to not follow her into conversation about the company or anything else. The only topic I have ever heard her speak of, has been of how unsatisfactory are the services she receives. How she wishes they would listen to her and do what she wants. Occasionally she will praise me or one of the other few “good ones” and speak of how she wishes everyone from whom she expects service would be the same.
While taking this woman to her destination, I see she is constantly on her phone. Either texting or talking and it appears that all she ever does is either make demands or complaints to people and about people charged with serving her. The encounter passes without incident. From what many other drivers have told me, that alone is an accomplishment but my challenge with this woman is entirely within myself. Indeed, all my triggers are firing and my mind can’t help but be in total judgement mode as I hear the way she speaks of others and how inadequate everything is.
Even if she’s is satisfied with service she is receiving at any given moment (as she usually is from me) there must be something to complain about. Even if it’s simply the traffic or the clothes of someone she sees on the street.
I nod, and shake my head as she goes on about something (or someone) that was just unacceptable!…
“Well isn’t that something?”
And… I am writing this now in gratitude. For what I learned about myself from both that woman and that young man yesterday. I am grateful for every opportunity to see myself showing up to meet the daily challenges of this great experience that is my life.
I am truly blessed.