After he got out of the van and was safely at his destination, I wondered, ‘Do his staff know how vitally important it is that they do the work they do?’ Do they know? I hope so, because just knowing would make every moment seem so much more important.
But, I’ve begun in the wrong place in telling this story. As a new user of WheelTrans, Toronto’s transportation service for people with disabilities, I am being introduced to a whole new world – it’s like I completely misunderstood the length and breadth of this land called ‘Disability’. I sit quietly as the van pulls up to senior’s residences, hospitals, group homes, support programmes. Everyone who gets on the bus has a destination. Something that I think would surprise the non-disabled world who tend to look at us as rudderless lost souls.
Another cold morning that I’m picked up by a warm van. I’m told that we have one stop on our way to my office. We drive through parts of Toronto that I haven’t seen before and before too much time passes we stop outside a residential home. The house looks like it’s still asleep, no lights come from anywhere inside. Even so the driver gets out and trudges through snow and cold to check to see if the passenger is up and ready. A door opens to his knock and a tiny, elderly man comes out. He seems like a flower that’s been long pressed between pages, frail. The driver brings him carefully to the front and assists him in.
Once in the driver speaks to the passenger in Italian. He said that he picks up a lot of Italian passengers so he’d learned some key phrases to make them feel more welcome – where do they get guys like this? As we drove the elderly man began by talking about the seniors programme he was heading to at Villa Colombo. His words were not clear, they were not distinct, he got lost in what he was saying. But it was clear from phrases of meaning that popped out from thoughts that rambled.
They are good to me there.
I love the place.
Every day, new, they are nice.
Thank God they are there for me.
When we pulled into the parking lot the driver was momentarily lost, he didn’t know exactly where the programme entrance was. He asked the elderly man, who suddenly came fully alert, he indicated that the programme was around the side and down a bit. When the van was turned around so that he could get out and almost step in the door, he said, again to himself, ‘I’m here.’
‘I’m here,’ he said these two words like I would imagine he will say them one day, probably not far off, setting foot in heaven.
I wonder if they know what they do matters.