This afternoon, as I was driving to a friend's for a visit, I saw a young man with a heavy backpack and his arms full of what looked to be books. Snowy rain was falling and he was obviously struggling. I looped around the block and pulled up half a block ahead of him.
I got out of the car, and looked up the block to him, said hi, opened my trunk and pulled out a cloth grocery bag. When I turned toward him he was closer and I smiled and began to say "Can I help you."
He spoke over me and said "I don't want a ride." I said, "Oh, I was thinking I could help you. It looks like you're having trouble and I thought you'd like another bag."
I held it open and he began putting his books inside. I noticed that the reason he'd been holding the bag close to his chest was because it was not only full, it also had a broken handle. As we filled the bag, I asked if I could give him another for the rest of his books, so he could manage better, since the handle was broken. He said no, he would be getting another soon, and this was enough.
All through our exchange he kept on saying "Why?" More than once I simply said it looked like he needed something to carry his books in and I'd wanted to help.
So, what's the big deal?
Well, this young man was also a man with a disability, obvious to anyone who looked at him.
As I drove away, watching him continue on his way, I was struck with an overwhelming sadness. I realized a simple and painful truth. His question of "Why?" had brought that painful truth.
In my own privileged world, of health and what people refer to as 'normal,' an offer of help is welcomed with thankfulness. It's not that I expect it, or assume I deserve it, it's just that it is a part of my life experiences. This young man I'd met, however, did not have this happen as a regular occurrence and as I drove down the street I realized that for him this simple act had been so out of the ordinary that he'd had to ask, why.