I was leaving work yesterday after a long day at the office doing the advocacy that makes my days so fulfilling. But sometimes, that same job and the task of seeing the world harshly impacting vulnerable people, that does not end when the 5:00 whistle blows.
It was pouring down, cats and dogs as they say. As I waited for the crossing signal, I spotted one of the gentlemen who often asks for change near my office. In his wheelchair, he was pushing himself across the street toward the signal, with his combined upper body strength and his sheer will pushing him ahead, he also somehow managed to keep hold of a large cup of change. His disabling condition, I imagined, along with the downpour of rain, were holding him back. It took me a second before I decided to and asked if I could help push him through the light. He did not hesitate before he accepted.
I held on to my umbrella and adjusted it out to cover us both and I did my best as I pushed his chair with one hand. We made it across the street but not before exchanging some chitchat. “It’s ugly out here tonight.” I recall saying. “It sure is.” he replied before continuing on with something else. I think he was talking about needing or getting new shoes, but I missed what he said because by that point we had made it across the street and we had managed up the ramp. He looked up and thanked me, but not before the cup slipped from his grasp and change was everywhere. I kneeled to collect the pennies and the dimes. And as I handed him the cup, and each piece of change, the rain kept coming down and I remember thinking that this scenario was all too much.
At the moment when I handed him the last bit of change for his cup, I was completely overwhelmed. When I was ready to leave, I patted him on the shoulder, I didn’t know what, if anything, that pat was meant for or what compelled me to do so. I think now, looking back, I hope it helped him somehow understand that I cared about him, that I wished him well.
As I made my way toward my train, my eyes began to well up and my mind was wandering; I remember thinking, he is a child of God.
There are many marginalized individuals, vulnerable people, persons with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness in a variety of ways, couch surfers, refugees, people living with mental illness or addiction, internally displaced citizens-folks here in the United States and folks across this globe, people are all struggling in their own way.
And yes my heart was heavy last night thinking about my friend and his change, the wheel chair he was sitting in all soaking wet and whether he had anywhere warm to go.
I wish that I could have done more for him and yet I am grateful for the chance that I had to serve him in even this, the smallest of ways. We can’t do everything, but we can each do one thing.