Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

Not really. I have always depended on myself and my wits. I have always trusted that for the most part people are kind, but in no way have a grown a dependence on that belief. It is just one of the many ways Blanche DuBois and I are different.

However, I am happy to report that my trust in the kindness of strangers is stronger than ever.

If you read my previous post you will be aware that Michael has had some problems with the state as far as getting help with his work situation. Some of you have heard me rant endlessly about the ineptitude of state employees or the uncaring bureaucracy we found ourselves entangled in. You may have seen me whip out my soap box and proselytize that change needs to occur in the system, screaming that the system is broken and finding no answer other than “well, fix it then.” It got to the point that even I have grown tired of wanting to fight all the time. It was stripping me of my faith and the constant derision was giving me a nice little ulcer for my trouble.

You may also know that I had come to the decision that we were going to have to find another way to get Michael the (very expensive) equipment he needs – the JORDY. JORDY, for those not in the know, stands for Joint Optical Reflective Display. It was inspired by Geordi LaForge (the blind chief engineer on Star Trek: The Next Generation) and is based on NASA technology. I started (where else) on my trusty friend eBay. There are, strangely, JORDY’s listed for sale. What I discovered is that yes, you can find a Jordy, but everyone and his uncle is also looking for a Jordy. I was quickly out-bid. I started then looking for a used system through nationwide classified ads. Some of the used systems are affordable, but they were no longer available by the time I got to them, or they were available, but no longer working, or they were available, worked, but they were almost as expensive as a new unit.

I didn’t know where else to turn. The state was still giving Michael the run-around which did not change his need. The week before he started work, they told him they would order his JORDY. That Friday, they emailed and said, in essence, “no deal.” I was furious, but decided to put my angry energy to good work. I started really looking and contacting people. I contacted a couple of low-vision specialty stores and then I sent an email to the manufacturer (Enhanced Vision Systems of Huntington Beach, CA). In the letter, I let them know about Michael, how wonderful he is, how long he has been bounced around the state system, how he had been promised one thing and then delivered another (if anything at all), and then I let them know that I wanted to purchase a used, demo or refurbished Jordy. I explained that our budget was tight, but we were willing to work it out. I asked, simply, if they could point me in a good direction for a used Jordy that we could purchase.

Immediately I received a response from a wonderful lady named Janice at Enhanced Vision who said that she was working on my request and would get back to me as soon as she could. Then Michael received a call from Justin and one from Michelle both from Enhanced Vision. They asked him some questions about his specific visual needs and about his contact with the state.

Today, they called and told him that they would be sending him a Jordy as their gift to him, completely free of charge.

When Michael called to tell me, I nearly fell off my chair. I told him I had to go, and then I went to my car, shut the door and wept tears of real gratitude.

I don’t know if you have ever been in a position where you feel really helpless. I was there. I wanted so badly to be able to whip out my checkbook and pay for the damned thing. I wanted to be able to provide my husband with everything he needed to live his life, to do his job and to fulfill his dreams. I fell short. Money, while not everything, certainly would have helped in this situation. If I had the money available, I wouldn’t have bothered with the state. I would have gone on line, ordered what he needed and waited for the delivery to arrive. If we had the money. We didn’t and we fell through the cracks of a system that is quite definitely broken. I was really struggling, not knowing where to turn. I started to pray.

I don’t pray very often. When I need solace, I fall back on my Catholic upbringing and say a few Hail Mary’s. They tend to calm me down. This time, however, I really sat down and prayed. I asked God to give me strength and guidance. I invoked the spirit of my beloved Grandmother and Aunt hoping that all the faith I had as a child in heaven and angels was real. For a moment, it felt tangible. For a moment, I felt as though I wasn’t speaking to a great nothingness, but instead I felt like I was imploring my Grandmother and my Aunt to help Michael and to help me have the strength to fight through this. I was asking for a light to illuminate the path I was supposed to follow.
Instead, I got an angel.

I am not a religious nut. My view of God and the universe are very different from any semblance of organized religion. I don’t tend to spout my own religious dogma, and as a result very few people have tried to bible beat me. (A word of advice – never try to bible beat anyone who went to Catholic School for their formative education. We are knowledgeable and many of us are jaded. Trust me, it is a fight you won’t win.) I don’t go to church, and I don’t wear a cross around my neck. I am completely mystified by the religious nuts and fanatics in this country, especially Christian fundamentalists. I find their beliefs very un-Christian, and am absolutely dying to take one of them on face to face. I believe that everyone has to come to their own faith in their own way, and believe that everyone’s faith is valid and personal. My own included. (My mother can stop lighting candles for my soul at any time, but she refuses. One day, maybe she will learn…)

Having said all of that, I am floored and awed by the events that unfolded this week. We received real kindness from strangers. I touched base with God and I got an answer. It isn’t often that a cynic can espouse the power of faith. But here I am.

What’s the moral of the story, boys and girls? To me, it is that we are all lost at some point, and at some point we will all have the answer to someone else’s prayer in our hands. It is up to us to choose how we react to people, to choose what path we take and to choose whether or not to help. If I am presented with an opportunity to help, I hope I can remember this lesson and sweep in to help someone else who has felt hopeless or helpless. Where I have the power to help, I hope I can be someone’s angel of mercy. Pay it forward, right?

Have faith.

1 comment:

Heidi said...

Whoohoo! That's the coolest story I've heard for a long time. And I'm so happy it happened to you guys. Every so often something happens to reinstill your faith in humanity, eh?