Talk To The Man In The Wheelchair

Elder Uchtdorf said in a recent Facebook post:  

"It was said of our Savior, “He went about doing good,” (Acts 10:38). Don’t wait for an invitation to become the person you were designed to become. As young single adults and children of God, your headline should also be, “they went about doing good.” When your focus is on increasing and demonstrating your love for God and your love for your fellowmen, you will find meaning and happiness in your life."

This past Friday was a real $#!@# one.  There were layoffs at work, went to the movies alone only to have the projector bulb burn out so they cancelled the movie, and became depressed seeing all these young families or father/son's going to the movies together.  The latter was salt to a wound for a desire to have a wife and kids.

Saturday wasn't much better either.  I sat down to prepare my Sunday school lesson and still had the lingering sad feelings from the day before.  So I decided to go to another theater and watch the movie that was cancelled the day before.  Bad idea.  It was even more triggering.  I walked around the theater again seeing these young happy families.  I secret said, "I hate you all!  Go to Hell before I punch your smiling faces!"  I was not a happy camper.  

Once my movie had ended, I walked into the theater foyer only to see more of the smiling faces I wanted to punch.  Then there was the man in the wheel chair.  

He appeared to be in his 30's and was severely disfigured from birth.  His motorized wheelchair was equipped with lights, speakers, and a large computer pad which sat above his lap.  Standing next to him was another clean cut man who was was walking back and forth finding food for them at the counter.  I had a strong feeling that I needed to talk to them and I didn't know why.  It was strange considering moments before I wanted to hurt some innocent people yet found myself needing to talk to these two individuals.

I found a spot at an empty table and observed the man in the wheel chair and his friend.  I knew I needed to talk to them but how?  I'm socially conscious enough to know there's social norms and didn't want to walk up and start talking....only to prove myself a weirdo.  

So I prayed, "God, I have no idea why I feel I should talk to them and I don't know how to approach this.  If I'm really meant to talk to them, guide them to sit at the table next to me and I'll talk".

Without being obvious, I watched the friend collect their food while the other man sat patiently in his wheelchair.  And before I knew it, of all the tables they could have chosen to sit at, they sat at the one next to me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as the friend carefully fed the man in the wheelchair.  I could see it was a struggle for the man to eat with his physical impairments.  But now what?  What do I say?  The friend left for drinks, leaving the man in the wheelchair alone.  I thought, "It's now or never".  I turned to the man in the wheelchair and said, "hey, that's quite the wheelchair.  Do you play your music loud through those speakers?"  

The man's face lit up but was silent.  Was he mentally challenged as well?  Could he hear, but just not respond?  My mind raced at what to say next in this moment of silence.  I then said, "Hi, I'm Josh.  What's your name?"

With great effort, this man managed to gain control of his malformed arm and hand to tap the computer screen in front of him.  Tap, tap, tap, tap.  A computerized voice then said "Tony".  I was elated and replied, "Well, hello Tony.  It's good to meet you my friend.  How old are you Tony?"  Tap, Tap.  "Thirty one" replied the computerized voice.  "Hey we're the same age buddy" I responded.  At this point Tony's friend returned with drinks. "Hi, I'm James and this is my cousin Tony" his friend responded as he offered me a handshake.  

Tony, James, and I had a great conversation for the next 5 minutes about the movies we were seeing.  Tony was smiling a lot and it was contagious.  I asked Tony if he came to the movies often and then sat patiently as I watched him tap out his reply.  I didn't mind the wait because I was being spiritually fed in that moment of silence.  Spirit was speaking to spirit and I could feel the love of God.  

I later thanked my new friends for the conversation and was on my way.  My heart was full which moments before seemed so empty.  I don't know if it had any impact on Tony or James, but it did me.

Elder Uchtdorf continues in his Facebook post:

"The next time you feel unhappy, remember where you came from and where you are going. Rather than focus on things that dampen your thoughts with sorrow, choose to focus on those things that fill your soul with hope. You will realize that these things are always connected to serving God and our fellowmen."