Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I complained that I had no Bentley, until...

Six or seven years ago, a young woman slated to attend her state university on full scholarship was in a car wreck while driving home from a wedding reception, and it changed everything. She endured months of surgery and physical rehab; one still sees the place where they had to open her throat to insert a tube. She moves, walks, and speaks awkwardly, reminding an onlooker perhaps of a victim of a neurological impairment. Of course driving is impossible, and she works at home, telecommuting on a freelance basis for a non-profit organization, but the hours are few and the compensation very modest.

I met her last April as I was coming home from my lunchtime walk. She had just crossed a busy intersection; it would have been an ordeal for her in any event, but she was trying awkwardly to carry some sacks of groceries. I stopped her and offered to help, and we walked to her apartment complex, which is just down the street from mine, chatting along the way. She was quite forthright about herself and her background, said the car wreck had been caused by her own negligence, described her determination to make a real life for herself despite her limitations, and said the groceries were for her first foray into cooking; she had only recently moved out of her parents' house into her own place.

Near her apartment, we parted, and I had never seen her since; when I happened to think of her, I wondered if she even lived in those apartments any longer.

We met again just over an hour ago as I was heading home, once again, from my lunchtime walk. She was startled when an apparent stranger called out to her by name, but I reminded her of our long-ago meeting, and she remembered. She's still cooking and had even ordered a cookbook online, which she hopes her mother will pick up at the Post Office today. Her work with the non-profit organization continues, though the hours are still quite limited.

She also was returning home, in her case from International Paper headquarters, just up the street, where she had attended a Toastmaster's meeting. To improve her confidence and her speaking voice, she had begun to attend Toastmasters, where she has become a Club Ambassador, which involves visiting other clubs, and is now working on her Distinguished Toastmaster's ranking.

Amazing the resilience of an admirable few in responding to adversity. While many of us grumble because we didn't get served fast enough at a restaurant, or we don't have a better credit score, or the car we bought didn't have all the options we wanted, here is someone whose range of effective operation, unaided, is contracted to a few blocks along one of the city's busiest streets, dangerous for her to cross, but with her attitude, she prevails and makes it the scene of a series of continuing triumphs. What if we could all demand that of ourselves as a matter of course, without needing to suffer a setback first?

© Michael Huggins, 2012. All rights reserved.

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