Wheels of Kindness

Wheels of Kindness

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

Wheels of Kindness

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.

Mother Teresa

A traffic light in my hometown is thought to be the longest light in the whole, entire world. I always seem to arrive at this lengthy and spacious intersection just as the light turns yellow, thereby giving me ample time to ponder the upcoming events of my day, or perhaps, more important, put on my makeup. But one morning, during rush hour traffic, I witnessed one of the greatest acts of random human kindness I have ever seen. Two men coming from opposite directions on the sidewalk met on the corner of the busy intersection.

Nothing so unusual about them until I realize that they are both in wheelchairs. One of the men had a motorized chair with plenty of power and ease of operation simply by pushing forward on the hand control. The other gentleman, however, was not so fortunate to have such a chair. His was large and bulky, and he had to use his own manual power by turning the enormous wheels by hand.

He was the smaller of the two men, and his arms did not appear to be large enough to turn the oversized shiny wheels that propelled not only the chair’s weight, but his own as well. He was breathing hard as he reached the corner of the busy intersection and seemed to welcome the break as he waited for the light to change. The man in the motorized chair filled his seat completely. He had large, muscular arms that looked like he may have been a bodybuilder at one time in his life.

These two men are in the wrong chairs, I thought to myself. The burly man in the motorized chair sat, resting comfortably, waiting for the light to change. The other smaller man in the manual chair, however, appeared to be doing stretching and breathing exercises as if he were an athlete warming up for a marathon. He was actually warming up for the long trip across the intersection, which to him probably did feel like a marathon. Even though the two men exchanged smiles, they did not appear to exchange any words, and it was apparent they had never met. It was just a coincidence that two men in wheelchairs arrived on the same corner, at the same time, and from opposite directions.

The light turned green, and they were off! The man with the motorized chair sped down the concrete ramp with great ease and had no problem reaching the top of the thirty-degree incline in the middle of the crosswalk, nor did he have any trouble ascending the steeper curb ramp on the other side of the street. The man in the manual chair, however, went down the steep, bumpy ramp much slower, as not to catapult himself onto the pavement when his wheels hit the crevice in the gutter. To gain enough momentum to navigate over the street’s incline, he had to push hard on the large steel wheels of his chair. I could see his upper arm and neck muscles and blood vessels bulging under the strain. I found myself cheering him on as if I was on the sidelines of a big game. Go! . . . Go! . . . Go! The light is going to change! Push! Push! C’mon, you can do it! I actually found myself yelling.

The light turned yellow, and I could hear car engines rev, but he was only halfway across the intersection, almost to the top of the incline! I wanted to get out and push him safely to the other side, because I knew he would never make it up that ramp in time. I feared he would get run over by the impatient drivers. Then, suddenly, it was as if time stopped for a brief moment, as if everyone saw the same thing at the same time—motors decreased their rpms and it grew quiet as we sat there, stopped in our cars.

The man in the motorized chair was well on his way down the opposite sidewalk, when he stopped, paused, and after putting his head down for a short moment as if in prayer, turned his wheelchair around, revved his motor, and headed back toward the intersection with its now red light.

Without even looking if there were cars advancing into the intersection, he once again sped down the concrete ramp and up the incline, meeting the man in the manual chair in the middle of the crosswalk. With a flowing and precise maneuver, like an acrobat catching the flying trapeze in midair, he did a one-eighty in front of the man in the manual chair, then backed up so the struggling man could reach out and take the handles of the motorized wheelchair. Once more, he pushed forward hard on the hand controls, and the motorized chair began moving, a little slower this time under the added weight of the manual chair. The man in the motorized chair was pulling the man in the manual chair across the intersection and up the curb ramp, onto the safety of the sidewalk! They exchanged smiles once more, but this time with an added glimmer, the kind that comes from the satisfaction of doing a good deed. They both then went in opposite directions on the sidewalks.

I do not know how many times the light changed during all of this, but not one car moved. As the light turned green again, we just sat there in our cars, knowing we were all a little bit changed by something divinely placed as a reminder to perform our own random acts of kindness.

Patricia Cena Evans

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