I was at a Planned Parenthood event on Thursday evening — part of my personal campaign to do at least one hopeful thing a day. I was indeed encouraged by the tough and strong women committed to fight Trump’s assault on women’s reproductive rights.
There was an hour-long reception preceding the presentations, with high round cocktail tables, a few lower tables, an elevated cold hors d’oeurves table, wait staff passing hot items, and a bar. Louise and I were standing at one of the high tables chatting with other attendees, when I excused myself and went to the bar to refill my wine glass.
Next to me was a woman in a wheel chair, a glass of wine in front of her on the bar. She couldn’t reach it. As the bartender handed me my glass, she said, “Excuse me. I can’t handle the wine glass and my wheelchair. Would you kindly carry the wine to one of the lower tables and make a place for me?”
I saw immediately how hard — almost impossible — it would be for her to join any of the conversations underway because she was sitting and everyone else was standing. I saw that the passed items would be lowered by the wait staff and offered to her, but that the cold hors d’oeurves table would be out of reach. I saw the room, in an instant, from her point of view.
I took her glass and followed as she made her way to a low table. I moved one of the chairs aside so she could maneuver her wheelchair there. Then I sat and talked with her, trusting that my friends would understand why I didn’t return.
She’s an epidemiologist working at a local cancer center. She was interesting, engaging, curious about my involvement with Planned Parenthood. We talked a little about her being in a wheelchair. She’d been to this venue before — the 75th floor of one of Seattle’s tallest buildings — and she said I must go to the ladies room. The stalls were along a wall with windows, offering a quite unique view — and up high enough so no one outside could look in and see someone on the toilet. Then her voice got a slight edge. “All the stalls except the handicapped one have that view — the handicapped stall is inside, away from the windows.”
Within a few minutes Louise came over, and then three other women joined — and we had a group.
I don’t have anyone in my life right now who gets around in a wheelchair, so I realize that I’m clueless most of the time. I was grateful for this encounter, which called me to stop and see.