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


  • 1. Lee A.  |  September 26th, 2006 at 10:05 pm

    Sort of apropos…have you ever thought of having AXIS Dance (from Oakland, modern/contemporary dance with a really cool ensemble of dancers with and without disabilities)? If you haven’t seen them before, they’ll blow your socks off. My current favorite piece of theirs is called “Decorum”. (I don’t think you’ve interviewed a small group before, but…)

  • 2. Devin  |  October 4th, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    I want to hear more about what the astrophysicist had to say!

  • 3. Josh Kornbluth  |  October 17th, 2006 at 1:42 pm

    Hey, Lee: AXIS sounds fantastic — thanks for the tip! And Devin: I’m a little hazy in my memory of what the astrophysicist told me, but I do recall that apparently gravity works in space kind of like a heavy ball dropped into the center of a sheet of rubber — an image I find strangely soothing.

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