Faith Stories: Wheelchair at the Intersection
I had never looked at him closely. There was always an appointment, a meeting, or just a selfish goal that hurried me on. He was there only occasionally, at the intersection where I was frequently stopped by the traffic light. The times I had seen him, rolling his wheelchair up to the drivers’ windows, I soothed my conscience with the knowledge that I didn’t have any cash with me. I seldom have any cash with me.
But this day was different somehow. He was there, talking to a driver several cars ahead. I hoped that the light would change and I would be forced by the impatient traffic to hurry by. But something inside of me grabbed me. I thought to myself, as usual, ‘but I don’t have any money.’ The light changed; he wheeled his chair to the rough shoulder; we in our cars and big trucks and expensive SUVs passed by.
Across the intersection I was alone. That thing inside of me made me pause. It was then I realized that I did have cash with me. I had been to the farmer’s market that morning and always take money to buy from the vendors and there was plenty left over. I turned my car around, went back to the intersection. He had vanished! I couldn’t believe that in those couple of intervening minutes he had been able to disappear in a wheelchair over rough pavement. But the urging inside of me wouldn’t give up. I drove around, searching for him. At last I spotted him sitting in an island of trees between the streets.
Leaving the car halfway on the street, I gathered my courage and walked into the trees and up to the wheelchair. The man was facing the other way and didn’t see me coming. When I spoke to him, he looked up at me and smiled. He didn’t seem at all surprised to see me there. I handed him all of my farmer’s market money. He looked around and said, ‘Isn’t this a beautiful place? It’s so peaceful here.’ As I spoke in agreement, I finally looked at him, really looked at him. He had no legs, very few fingers, and scars all over his face. But he was smiling and he was grateful, not for my money, but for the beauty and peace that he found in that grove of trees. As I looked at him, I was overcome with love. Not pity. I felt like I was looking into the face of Jesus.
I go through that intersection several times a week. I always carry an envelope with money. I have not seen that beautiful face again.
Dearest Jesus, help us learn to open our eyes, to see with our hearts the beauty and worth of each person we are privileged to meet along our daily path. Amen.