Monday, March 29, 2010

An Interesting Experience

Today I was on my way home from picking up the kids from a friend's house and I saw a man in a motorized wheelchair in the bike lane. He was on a kind of busy road, and he seemed to be having a hard time controlling his chair. I was afraid he was going to get hit by a car, so I pulled over and asked him if he needed help. He said that he needed to get to the shade under a nearby tree. I pushed the controller on his chair and jogged along beside it to get him onto the sidewalk and down to the shade.

I could tell he was having a hard time mentally and thought part of the problem may be dehydration, since it was the middle of the day and fairly hot outside. (We had a high of 81 degrees today.) I asked him if he needed a drink and he said "Yes, please". I dug around in my car and found a bottle with a little water in it. He couldn't move his hands up to his face, so he asked me to pour the water into his mouth. I did, and I could tell he was very grateful.

A guy who was working on the landscaping nearby came over to see what was going on. He took the water bottle and filled it up with fresh, cold water from the cooler on his truck, then had to get back to work.

I asked the man in the wheelchair where he was trying to go and if there was someone I could call for him. He motioned to an envelope in his lap with a phone number written on it. It said "Immanuel" under the phone number, so I assumed that was the name of a person. It turned out that it was the phone number for the care facility where he lives. I told them his name, what street we were on and our crossroads. First, they asked me if I was going to bring him back, and I said that I had no way to transport him and his wheelchair in my car. Then, they dispatched a car to come pick him up.

After a while in the shade, and with some hydration, Mr. R's condition started to improve. He became more talkative, but still wasn't all the way "there".I didn't want to just leave him there alone, so we waited until someone showed up from the care facility. While we waited, we talked. He said he was trying to get to the DMV in his wheelchair so he could get his license, but when he got to the place he thought it was there was no longer a DMV there. Before that he had gone to CVS because he lost his wallet yesterday and thought he'd left it there. He said that he has had MS for 17 years, and that he had earned some kind of special PhD from ASU before he got sick.

My heart really went out to this man. I could tell that he had been a really smart guy in his 'previous' life. I asked him about the place he lived and if he liked it. He made a face and said he hated it and that he wanted to go back to Tuscon, but Tuscon is getting too big now.

For most of this time the kids were sitting in the car with the windows rolled down, but they were getting restless so I let them get out of the car. They enjoyed interacting with Mr. R, and I think he really got a kick out of them. Shortly after that the man from the care facility arrived. As soon as he saw the motorized wheelchair he started complaining and saying, "I can't pick you up in a car with a wheelchair!" Then he started interrogating Mr. R, lecturing him about how he can't go off in his wheelchair like that, and complaining about how the people at the facility do that all the time and what a hassle it is for him. I felt so bad for Mr. R and the way this man was treating him. I felt like saying something to him about it, but I didn't want to get in a fight with some stranger and put my kids and myself in a bad situation. So, I just continued to talk to Mr. R and give him more to drink. I kind of didn't want to leave him there with the guy from the care facility, but I had to.

It annoyed me how the man was talking down to Mr. R. Just because he doesn't have the same mental capacity as he used to doesn't mean you have to treat him like that! I think another reason it bothered me was because Mr. R reminded me a little of my Dad when he was near the end of his illness. He wasn't all there mentally, but he still had feelings. He liked to try to do things for himself. People deserve to be treated kindly and with respect, especially in a situation like that. Mr. R wasn't trying to "cause trouble" or anything. He sincerely thought he needed to get to the DMV and that his chair was the best way to get there.  

I asked Mr. R if he wanted me to stay until the bus from the care facility arrived. He said he'd be okay. So, I started loading the kids back into the car and cleaning up our 'picnic' of fruit snacks and chips that I found in the trunk to appease their grumbling tummies since it was way past lunch time. When I was saying goodbye Mr. R grabbed my hand, then pulled me in to give me a hug. He said, "Thank you so much. God bless you! Have a nice day." I wanted to cry, and said shyly, "You, too."

During our 'adventure' the kids were asking me questions about what we were doing, etc. They asked me something along the lines of "Why are we staying here and helping this guy?" I said, "Because it's the nice thing to do. If you were stuck on the side of the road, wouldn't you want someone to help you?" I know I don't always stop to help people, but in this case I just really felt like I need to help this guy.

At the time I wasn't thinking about it, but on the way home the thought occurred to me that I think letting our children see us giving service and showing love to our fellow men is such a great way to teach them about the things that are the most important in this life.We were there with him a little over an hour. An hour well spent? I think so.


  1. What a great experience. Thanks for sharing.

  2. what an awesome woman you are! and such a great experience for your children to see!! thanks for sharing it!

  3. Wow, Jillian. That was so kind of you. I'm sure that experiance will stick with the kidlets. It's so true that we have to lead by example. Thanks for reminding us all to remember the big picture.

  4. Wow Jillian, that's pretty cool. I have to admit, I would probably never ever stop to help someone on the side of the road like that, especially around here. To be honest, I would have assumed it was just another homeless person and avoided eye contact. While I'm still thinking I probably wouldn't feel comfortable/safe stopping on the side of the road like that, you still have set a great example to try to find others in need and help them! Thanks for sharing!

  5. You are such a great person!! I find it hard to stop and help people when I have my kid in the car and I do use it as an excuse. Thank you for being such a great example to me and to your kids!!!


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