I’ll Do Anything!

I’ll Do Anything!

From A 4th Course of Chicken Soup for the Soul

I’ll Do Anything!

My share of the work of the world may be limited, but the fact that it is work makes it precious.

Helen Keller

Jack had cerebral palsy. He was quadriplegic and used the restricted motion he had in one hand to push the lever that propelled his electric wheelchair. Although he was not one of my students, he often listened to my lectures and participated in discussion groups. I had a difficult time understanding his speech and relied heavily on classmates to interpret for him. He shared his personal concerns and frustrations with me, deeply touching my heart. He was so courageous to be so vulnerable!

One day after class, Jack came up to me and said he wanted to work. At the time I was training severely disabled adults to work at on- and off-campus jobs at Fresno City College. I asked Jack, “Where?”

He said, “With you in the cafeteria.” Stunned for a moment, I thought about the skills needed to perform the tasks of bussing tables, loading dishwashers, sweeping, mopping, stocking, etc. How could a person who is quadriplegic possibly participate in this type of training program? I couldn’t answer. My mind was blank.

“What do you want to do, Jack?” I asked, hoping he might have something in mind.

His response was firm. “I’ll do anything!” he said with a smile. Oh, how I loved his spirit and determination and admired his conviction! We made arrangements to meet in the cafeteria at 10:00 A.M. the following day. I wondered if he would be punctual. Could he even tell time? The next morning I heard his wheelchair 15 minutes early for his appointment. I silently prayed for guidance and insight.

At 10:00 A.M., we met. By 10:01, Jack was ready to go to work. His enthusiasm made his speech even more difficult to understand. In my endeavors to find a way for Jack to participate meaningfully in a vocational training program, I ran into one obstacle after another. His wheelchair kept him from getting too close to tables. He was unable to use his hands except to grasp. I tried some adaptations without success. Seeing my frustration, a kind-hearted custodian offered to help. Within a half hour, he had provided a solution. He had shortened the handle of a floor mop so that it fit comfortably under Jack’s arm and could be manipulated with one hand. The mop was positioned to reach the table tops. With the other hand, Jack propelled his chair, wiping the surface of the tables as he moved around.

Jack was in heaven! He was so proud to be an active participant and not just an observer! As I watched, I noticed that he could push chairs out of the way using his wheelchair. A new job was created for Jack: pushing chairs away from tables that were designated for wheelchair use and lining them up against the wall out of the way. Jack performed his job with gusto and pride. His self-esteem soared! At last, he felt capable and worthwhile!

One day Jack came to me in tears. When I asked what was wrong, he explained to me that people were not letting him do his job. At first I didn’t understand what he meant. Then I observed him trying to move chairs. It took so much effort on his part that well-intentioned students thought that he was struggling to get chairs out of his way and they would move the chairs for him. He tried to explain, but no one took the time to listen. The problem was solved when I made these cards for Jack to carry on his tray:

Hi!My name is Jack.
I am working in the cafeteria.
My job is to wiped own tables

And move certain chairs to the wall.

If you would like to help me ,
PLEASE give me a big smile

And Tell me what a good job

I am doing.

Jack displayed and shared these cards proudly. Students began taking Jack and his job seriously. That semester, he experienced the self-worth that comes when one feels acknowledged and supported. His determination will always be an inspiration to me, as I search for and find new ways for my students and I to overcome life’s obstacles and be all we can be with our God-given talents.

Dolly Trout

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