Monday morning, 6:30am, and my alarm goes off. The sore throat I felt coming on the night before was affirmed with a sharp painful swallow. Going to work came into complete question. A few snooze button clicks later and it was 8:45am. I was going to be late.
With sore throat in full-force and energy levels and motivation on empty, I exited I45-South onto the Overton Road ramp and felt a prayer enter my heart. “I’m desperate for You today. Desperate is the best place I can be. It means I have to rely on You, which is always a good thing. I need your help today, Lord.” It was a quick prayer, and it was over by the time my car rolled up to the stop sign at the bottom of the exit ramp and turned right.
A few hundred yards down Overton, over the familiar train tracks and on the left hand side sit the Village Oaks Apartments. As my car rolled over the tracks, I saw perhaps the most intriguing couple I’ve met in my one year at Village Oaks.
Tania, a 45-year-old white woman, zero teeth, mentally and physically handicapped and a formerly homeless drug addict is at the corner of Overton and Southern Oaks with her husband, John. John is a 45-year-old black man that suffers from mental and physical handicaps. Stricken with polio at age four, John is also confined to an automatic wheel chair or a set of special crutches.
Seeing Tania and John out walking early isn’t completely abnormal. They are usually up and at’em as I’m pulling into work in the morning. I typically see them walking to the bus stop about this time. Tania likes to hold John’s hand while he directs his electric wheel chair. But, something about this scene felt off.
Tania looked slightly panicked and John’s wheelchair wasn’t rolling along like usual. They were probably forty yards from the bus stop. As my car kept approaching, I knew something was wrong. Tania was trying to help John out of his chair, and another young man was hurrying back towards Village Oaks. As I passed by, I rolled down my window to waive to Tania and signal that I was going to turn around. She replied with a loud, “John’s chair is broken!”
Once I pulled over, Tania explained that John’s chair stopped working and the other man who was jogging back to the apartments was going to get John’s crutches. The plan of action was to get John out of his chair, push the chair back to the leasing office, and wait for the crutches to arrive.
While we waited for the crutches to arrive, John and Tania decided we should get John out of his chair and help him walk towards the bus stop. Blame it on my cold medicine, but for whatever reason I didn’t think to suggest we should just let John comfortably wait in his chair until the crutches arrived.
Instead, Tania and I began the process of removing John from his chair. What a scene it was: a mixed-race, mentally and physically handicapped couple with a twenty six year old white male all shuffling towards a bus stop in Southeast Oak Cliff. Thankfully, two Good Samaritan citizens, an older black woman and a young Hispanic woman with a Dodge truck and two kids both pulled over to offer their assistance.
We never made it to the bus stop. John’s legs and energy simply gave out. “I need to lie down,” he said to us. I thought, “Where is he going to lie down? We’re on a sidewalk.” But, for John, that wasn’t a problem. In fact, John laughed the entire time that Tania, myself, and our new Hispanic friend helped him down to the concrete where he did exactly what he said: John just laid on the sidewalk, laughing for about five minutes until the crutches arrived.
John and Tania made their bus on time, and with the help of the Hispanic friend and her truck, we were able to return John’s wheelchair to his apartment.
Had I been “on time” for my human standards that day, I would’ve seen John and Tania making their way to the bus while his chair was still working. But on that Monday, I was on God’s time: fifteen minutes late, and I’m so grateful for that.
I am grateful for John and Tania’s perspective. I was sick, tired and unmotivated that morning. And, running late wasn’t helping. But as I came upon John and Tania – a couple who lives a life that seems to me very hard and tiring – I was struck by the grace, motivation, and joy with which they live life. And, I am grateful that Jesus invites us in to this kind of a life every day.