Encounter

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.

2 thoughts on “Encounter

  1. for Frances: Haven’t heard from you in awhile — glad you’re still out there! And thanks for the affirmation. I’ve been so down since the election. It’s good to be reminded that there are people who recognize and value simple human decency. Since the election I feel like a stranger in my own country, and I’m desperately seeking kindred spirits.

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