Who is Serving Who?

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I love how life surprises me.

Sometimes I wonder who is serving who?

I was running late for an appointment with my doctor, and as I rushed into the lobby I got behind an elderly woman who was speaking to the receptionist. From behind, I could see her shoulders sagging; I could feel her fatigue, her frustration. Next to her was a frail and motionless young man in a wheelchair.  

Apparently, they had an appointment with his doctor, who had moved offices without informing them. The receptionist was kind enough to phone their doctor's office and clear up the misunderstanding. During that call, it became apparent that they were not going to get there in time for the appointment due to their re-routing. The receptionist apologized (though it was clearly not her fault), as the old woman swayed a little under the weight of this new information.

You see, it was apparent that she was not accustomed to moving this man in and out of the wheelchair by herself. She had somehow gotten him in the car, out of the car, and now needed to get him back in the car. She said something about it not being a problem, except that it was just so difficult getting him to this point in the first place. She sighed, saying "I couldn't get anyone to help me."

As I watched her gather her strength and grab the handles of the wheelchair, I could literally feel her pain. She was a determined woman who had a job to do, and yet she wasn't sure how she was going to do it. The young man was at least as big as her, and dead weight. And she needed to get him back in her car.

I helped her with the doors, and followed her out to her car. Without speaking, I helped her open the car door and get the chair lined up properly so we could both lift him into the car seat. We had him half-way in the seat when she suddenly stopped, reached over and gave me a big hug, and said "God Bless You." Gulp. We finished getting him settled, as she attempted to fasten his seatbelt. Her arms weren't long enough, so she gave up and put the wheelchair in the trunk while I buckled him in.

Through this tedious process, he never made eye contact. He looked so sad and helpless. He avoided making a connection with me while I finished getting him settled and gently closed the car door.

The whole thing took less than 2 or 3 minutes. It was no big deal - wait - yes, it was.

I have never cared for someone in a wheelchair. Never transported someone from wheelchair to car, never felt the bulk of an adult diaper under my hand. It's not that I wouldn't do it if I needed to. The opportunity has simply not presented itself before. Or, more likely, I just never noticed when someone could use my help. And really, if I had, I might have been the one averting my eyes.

As I was walking back into the building for my appointment, another woman who witnessed the scene was coming out. We exchanged soft smiles... hers signaling a quiet acknowledgment of me and the situation.

While seated in the waiting room, I was suddenly overcome with emotion (seems to happen often these days). I expected to feel satisfied because I helped someone else with something difficult.  

What I didn't expect was the certainty that she had helped me more than I had her.  

A deep sense of loving kindness filled every part of me. I felt love for her for being such a sweet trooper, love for him and his human need for dignity. Love for God for placing me there, in that place, at the exact moment I could truly make a difference.

I am grateful I was paying attention, since there have been many times when I would have been too preoccupied to notice. I am grateful for the chance to serve, and to know that by serving someone in such a random yet profound way, I'm the one who was truly served.