From where I sit stuck in the February snow on the Allen Street hill facing home after breakfast at Webster’s Café and Bookstore, the words come to mind like a mantra that has governed the last 15 years of my life as a man who cannot walk, “…I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
The words were originally made famous by Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’ emotionally charged “Streetcar Named Desire.” The words evoked a spirit of hopeless dependence.
For me they convey very much the opposite. For me (a paraplegic with a bad right arm) the kindness of strangers is a remarkable blessing. In the past 15 years since I became unable to walk, I am no longer surprised by incidents, such as today’s:
A woman driving north on Allen Street:
• She quickly parks.
• Gets out of her car.
• Pushes my power chair out of the snow.
Unasked people open doors for me and will offer to perform helpful tasks which they do, such as going to the grocery store for one needed item (only to be presented with a week’s groceries paid for by my benefactor).
This Kindness is especially intense in Central Pennsylvania because of the strength of family-ties, clearly observable in local nursing home reception areas. This kindness has been extended to me throughout the United States. My 1993 Buick with its wheelchair lift has taken me to California and back twice. Strangers who helped me along the way. I realize that some individuals have experienced bad behavior as a consequence of being disabled. For me strangers are my guardian angels.
As I see it, one of the unwritten rules of the kindness I have experienced is to try not being in the position of having to ask for help again. For example, if the batteries in my power chair are low [which they are, hey, Travis] I can call Travis at T&B Medical and before the batteries are totally exhausted they have been replaced by new ones. Without replacement, there is considerable danger involved in leaving me without power.