The Grace of a Stranger
When you have a disability, it can be hard to accept kindness from others.
My wife and I recently took a trip to Hollywood (Florida, not the other one!) to visit family. We live in Orlando, so it’s about a four-hour drive.
We hit a rest area off the turnpike because I’m hungry. She goes to the restroom and I debate whether or not to get in line. Why?
I have cerebral palsy and will need her help to carry my food to the table. (Sweet woman, she does so much for me.) But the line is pretty long and so I decide to get on it. She’ll be back before I order, right?
Whoops. The line is moving faster than I thought. And to make things worse, the guy in front of me tells me to go ahead of him.
“No, it’s okay,” I answer nervously.
But he insists. AND he wants to buy my food for me. What’s with this guy?
When you have a disability, weird thoughts flood your brain:
Does this guy feel sorry for me?
Does he think that because I’m disabled I have no money?
Does he think I’m completely helpless?!
Or is he just a nice guy?
I’ve been taught, and I believe, that refusing help is a form of pride. If you truly believe it is more blessed to give than to receive, then you are robbing someone of a blessing if you refuse their gift. Sure, there’s been times where the “help” offered to me is not actually help at all. (The airport employee who insisted I stay in the wheelchair when I told him three times I wanted to get up.) But this guy seems to have no pretense.
I look around to see if my wife is almost back. No where in sight. I tell the guy he doesn’t have to buy me my meal. But he says he wants to. And I sense kindness, not condescension, in his voice.
So I say okay. I let him buy me a breakfast sandwich, hash browns, and a sweet tea. (I was planning on also getting a donut, but I didn’t want to take advantage of his kindness…)
And as we wait for the food, we chat. He tells me his name is Wilbur, and he lives in Homestead, and he and his wife were just on vacation in Orlando. And he comments on what a beautiful day it is.
When the food comes out, Wilbur carries it to a table for me. By that time my wife spots me and comes to the table. Wilbur bids me good day and disappears.
Did Wilbur feel sorry for me, or was he just being kind? Can it be both? Do these questions even matter?
In some ways, I think they do. But on that day, to me, they didn’t. After Wilbur left, I didn’t feel ashamed, embarrassed, or pandered to.
I felt blessed by the grace of a stranger.