Last week I had one of those “chance encounters” that leaves me pondering for days. I had taken my son to his occupational therapy appointment and was waiting in the car for him to come out. I looked up and saw him walking to the car. Just as I noted to myself that he was looking rather pale, he proceeded to lose his breakfast in the parking lot. His therapist rushed over and took him back inside even though he was trying to convince her that he was quite comfortable lying on the ground.
As soon as they got inside an elderly lady pulled into the parking space where said former breakfast now lay. I didn’t want her to step in it so I tried to wave her down. That didn’t work so when she opened her door I spoke through the window, “Excuse me. I’m paralyzed and couldn’t come to tell you but I wanted you to know that my son just barfed right there and I didn’t want you to step in it.”
She looked at me with this strange, delighted look. She stepped right over the barf and stuck her head in my window and proceeded to talk but just then Josiah was back with his therapist. I asked if she wouldn’t mind coming to the other window so Josiah could get in. The therapist explained that Josiah had gotten sick from spinning too much on the swing, apologized and got Josiah into the car.
The lady was still there patiently waiting to share the most amazing stories. She told us that her brother was eighteen years old on D Day 1945. He was one of the soldiers that stormed the beach in Normandy. Tragically he was shot in the back and was paralyzed. She went on to tell me that after he came home he invented and received the first patent for hand controls that allow the handicapped to drive with their hands. She was delighted to see that although much has changed, the steering knob that I use is exactly like the one he invented and used. I was still stunned and a bit emotional when she asked why Josiah was at therapy. I explained that he has some developmental delays and she got that strange, delighted look again.
She told us that she had a son who was born blind. Because of the blindness he also had difficulties with coordination. His early years were rather rough and he wanted to feel more like the other boys so he told his mom he wanted to get involved in sports. He decided to run track. He got on the team his freshman year in high school. The school did not have a very good record and had not gotten to the state championship meet since 1922. This young man, however, announced to the coach that by his senior year, the team would go to state and that he would be one of the best runners in the state of Minnesota. Well, just a few years later, that team made it to state for the first time in decades and that young man, who was born blind, was number twelve in the state!
This kind lady looked my rather queasy son in the eyes and said, “No matter what it looks like or how hard it seems, don’t give up!” She then patted my hand and walked away. I never even got her name or the names of the heroic men in her life but I’ll never forget any of them.