September 26th, 2006
This morning my son and I were taking a city bus (what he used to call, in his toddler days, the "shaky bus," because they tended to rattle loudly) to his school, joined by several other parents (none of whom I knew) with their children. (Last year we gave up on the actual school bus, which could be depended on to take the longest, most nausea-inducing possible route to school.) One mom, sitting across from us with her daughter, seemed very serious -- an anomaly amid a busful of chatterers and laughers; I wondered whether she might be in a bad mood, or going through a rough time, or maybe just shy. Then a whole bunch of us got off the bus, including me and her and our children, who ran up to school.
The mom and I then crossed the street to wait for the bus to return and take us back downtown. A moment later my friend Mark (another dad, but one with wheels) drove by and offered me a ride. I said sure -- at which point an older guy, who had also been waiting at the bus stop, asked Mark whether he could hitch a ride as well. This older gentleman clearly had some physical difficulties: his arm was held at a weird angle, as if he couldn't control it, and he had trouble lifting one of his legs (turns out he had suffered a stroke a couple of years ago). So I got in back, and the older guy started to ease himself into the front passenger seat -- except that he couldn't quite get his leg to cooperate, and his arm clearly wasn't strong enough to lift his leg off the sidewalk and into the car.
As Mark and I timidly asked how we could help, the mom (who'd ridden across from me on the previous bus ride) came over and -- with the care and assurance of an expert -- helped the older man into his seat. She gently swung his leg up, and made sure his arm was okay as well. As Mark and I watched her with admiration, she explained, "It's okay -- I do this for a living." She carefully shut the car door, and we all thanked her. She smiled, radiantly, and Mark drove us away.
Turns out this older guy is an astrophysicist, and on the car ride down he was able to answer many of my pressing questions about general relativity and the origins of the universe. But what has stayed with me all afternoon is that woman's un-asked-for grace and kindness -- a reminder that, whether we know it or not, we move through this world surrounded by angels.
Entry Filed under: let's digress