Christy’s Last Day

Christy’s Last Day

From Chicken Soup for the College Soul

Christy’s Last Day

Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.

Saint Francis DeSalas

I did it. Finally. After four years of struggling, studying, and working nights in the library to help pay my tuition, there were only thirty seconds of the last minute of the last exam of the last class of my college career. All I had to do now was traverse the campus to my car and drive home to start my new life—as a college graduate. It was all downhill from here.

Well, maybe not. Halfway across campus, my heel broke. I continued limping and suddenly what was otherwise a sunny day began to cloud over. Was that a drop of rain I just felt on my cheek? What next?

By the time I reached my car, I was drenched. So much for my new life being filled with sunshine. I was forty-five minutes late for margaritas. And there was a lot of traffic. I guess everyone else was in a hurry to get home and start their new lives too.

I negotiated the maze of parking lots and drove to the edge of campus. One more traffic light to go and fiesta. The light turned green but the car in front of me didn’t move. The driver began to honk. Then he swerved around whatever was blocking his path and sped off. I began to do the same when I realized that the obstruction was a man in a wheelchair. In fact, I recognized him as one of my fellow classmates whom I had seen many times over the past four years, but never spoken to.

But I was in a hurry. I had important celebrating to do. I began to drive off. I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw the man struggling to get his chair out of the muddy intersection.

Surely someone else will help him, I thought.

But what if everyone else thought that, too?

I stopped.

His name was Jordan. It was difficult to understand this at first. His cerebral palsy affected his speech. We tried to get his wheelchair into my college student’s econo-box but to no avail. If I was going to help him, it meant pushing him to wherever he was going, in the rain, in the mud. I like to think of myself as a nice person, but surely there were limits. After all, I did stop when no one else did. I did try to get his chair in my car. At least I got him out of the intersection.

As I was sorting through this moral dilemma, I looked down at Jordan. He was shivering in the rain. But he was smiling. For some reason, he didn’t seem to mind. He clearly didn’t expect me to do more than I had already done. He began to wheel off down the muddy sidewalk. I couldn’t leave him now.

I locked my car and quickly caught up to him. I began to push. It was uphill for what seemed like a mile. Every hundred yards or so, with great effort, Jordan would crane his neck around so that he could look up at me in appreciation. How could I have even thought of leaving him? I thought.

At the end of our long trek to Jordan’s apartment, which was the closest disabled person’s accessible building to campus, both of us were soaked to the bone and drenched in sweat. I couldn’t believe that Jordan had managed to do this alone, every day for four years. To think I threw a minor tantrum every time I couldn’t find a parking space close enough to my classes! Jordan insisted that I come in and dry off. He said there was someone he wanted me to meet.

I was a little afraid to go inside. I don’t know what I expected. I hadn’t ever been to a disabled person’s home before. I guess I was afraid of the unknown. When I got inside, I was a little ashamed of my fears. Not only was I surprised, I was impressed. Jordan’s apartment didn’t look like any ordinary college student’s slovenly habitat. Instead, it was a modicum of efficiency and good taste. Each item was carefully placed and within Jordan’s reach. And so many books!

“Have you read all these?” I asked him.

“One a week for the last four years,” he replied.

That, in addition to his studies! He reached for my hand and motioned for me to follow him to the back bedroom. He knocked gently and whispered something through the door. I followed him inside. He introduced me to his bedridden mother whom I later found out had suffered a stroke some years earlier. Chair-bound Jordan, full-time college student and avid reader was also her primary caretaker.

Jordan left us there and went to make some tea. I wasn’t sure if his mother even knew that I was in the room or if she understood what Jordan had just told her about the chair and the rain. But suddenly she raised up her head and began to speak.

“In four years,” she said, “not one person has ever helped my son. It’s not that he needs help, but it gets lonely out there sometimes.”

I didn’t know what to say. Margaritas seemed like such a distant thought now.

I stayed for dinner. Jordan and I celebrated our last day of school together. In all those classes and after all that studying, I learned my most valuable lesson off-campus.

Christy Calchera
As told to Dan Clark

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