Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I'm Here

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.

A lot.

To him.


Carleen said...

The attitude and behavior of the driver, who has gone out of his way to make an elderly man comfortable, speaks volumes to me. It is people like this driver who continue to inspire in me the hope that ONE person, ONE act at a time can make this world a better place for someONE else. Thanks for the beautiful post!

lina said...

Great post Dave.

FridaWrites said...

You should write a letter to his supervisor if you get a chance. Not everyone does such a job so well and with such care for others. It would show him (and other drivers) that people notice.

Luvdapups33 said...

Wow, what a great post! I felt like I was there, and got a great picture of the elderly man, the bus driver and the cold Canada winter in my mind. You said so much with so few words. Wow.

Reformed Anon. Girl in Pain said...

if you know the name of the program, why not drop them a line Dave?
I am sure they would love love love to hear how they brighten someones life.
the bus driver is awesome too and that warrents a compliment sent to the WheelTrans people too!
I find people are ready to call with a complaint but not as often ready to call with a compliment!
Sorry for the rant!
Soli Deo Gloria
REformed Girl

Rosemary said...

Che bella persona!

Dave Hingsburger said...

FYI, before posting here I sent a copy of this to the Villa Colombo and it has been shared with staff. I agree they probably get more complaints than compliments.