Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Someone Special

By Alan Burkhart

Every once in a while, you meet someone who truly has an impact upon you. Today I met such a person. It was shaping up to be the Mother Of All Bad Days. Bad directions, bad traffic, a city with which I'm unfamiliar (rare for me). Not to mention a tight schedule. It could have ended up being one of those forgettable days that you just put behind you and try to pretend never happened. That changed with a phone call. Read on...

I had delivered the first of two stops in Rochester, PA (north of Pittsburgh) and was headed to Pittsburgh for the second stop. Let me say that Pittsburgh is a very confusing city if you're unfamiliar with it (like me). I had obtained directions to this place by way of their automated directions line, which consists of a robot talking way too fast for anyone short of Mr. Spock to comprehend. And of course the area for which I was bound was covered in road construction... and SIGN construction.

Predictably, I missed my turn for the West End Bridge and ended up creeping down this tiny (and BUSY) street with cars parked along both sides, thousands of jaywalkers, low powerlines, etc. And here I am with a 53-foot trailer, and lost. I donned my hands-free headset and called the place, insisting that someone familiar with the neighborhood help me get pointed in the right direction. This is when I met "Maggie."

The cheerful lady instantly put me at ease by telling me that she'd be there as long as it took to get me un-lost, then proceeded to ask me for landmarks. She quickly figured out where I was and talked me all the way to my destination. She made it easy.

It was during this process that I noticed a blind man with no seeing-eye-dog making his way up the street, tapping his cane in front of him. I remarked to Maggie that this seemed a bit dangerous. She said she'd never had a problem herself... but she used a dog along with the cane. Open mouth, insert foot. I was being guided across Pittsburgh by a blind woman. She knew every landmark, every twist and turn, and the names of most of the businesses. I didn't ask Maggie how long she'd been blind. I already felt about two inches tall.

A conversation with the guy who unloaded me revealed that Maggie had been working there for 23 years, and had been blind the entire time. So, it isn't like she'd just lost her sight recently. If she had ever had eyesight, the city had certainly changed in the minimum of 23 years she'd been blind. And yet here she is, not only being a productive person, but a vibrant and cheerful person who takes obvious pleasure in helping others.

People like this sweet gal help me to continue thinking there is still hope for humanity.
Thanks Maggie.

The above article was originally just an e-mail that I'd sent to friends, relating the events of the day. The strong response (ranging from "that's so sweet!" to "Amen!") made me think I should share this with my visitors here on the site as well. I hope you enjoyed it.
- Alan