The generosity of strangers never ceases to amaze me.
Earlier this week, my girlfriend and I took a mini-vacation to the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey. It was our first time being at the beach together while it was warm enough to be in the ocean. In typical Shane fashion, I worried (unnecessarily) that Anna would be overworked by the duties of keeping me alive, especially when the gargantuan beach wheelchair was thrown into the picture.
Getting me onto the beach is fairly simple, assuming I have a team of 18 Olympic athletes assisting me. The beach wheelchair is constructed with creaky PVC piping, huge inflatable rubber tires, and mesh seating. Assembling and disassembling the wheelchair (which must be done to get it in the van) takes determination, brute strength, and luck. The chair would hold a small rhinoceros, so when you plop tiny, malnourished me into it, the result is lots of room for my frail body to get tossed around. We compensate by filling this extra space with a thousand pillows (okay… one towel). Once I’m finally locked in, I could be hit by a dump truck and not feel a thing, which is important, because pushing the damn contraption is even harder than getting it together. Pushing it over lumpy sand is a whole different monster.
Anyway, Anna handled all of these challenges (completely on her own) like the champion of a human being that she is. I can’t praise her enough. Kids should be learning about her in elementary school curriculums. She’s on the same level as Einstein and Hercules and Gandhi.
But during our beach day, we encountered a moment of unexpected generosity that also needs to be recognized.
After a few hours, we decided we’d spent enough time lounging in the 97 degree sun, so Anna packed up all our gear and loaded me back into the beach wheelchair of death for the haul back to the hotel. We zigzagged our way through the masses of sunbathers in a slow but steady path to the street. Near the top of the beach, where it gets steep by the dunes, Anna started to have some trouble pushing me up. The massive tires kept getting stuck in craters of sand. She could have easily powered through, but she was also very aware that even the tiniest bumps were hard on my neck.
A man (who I will call Clint) standing near his family’s blanket noticed her struggling.
“Need a hand?” asked Clint.
Anna began to respond that she was okay, but before the words had formed, Clint walked over and began pulling my chair from the front while Anna continued to push. We made it up the hill with ease.
Clint asked again if we were okay, and then returned to his family. It was such a small act of kindness, but he had no obligation to assist us (no one else on the beach offered a hand, and it didn’t strike us as rude).
Clint stepped up to help a stranger just for the sake of being decent, and I think that kind of genuine generosity is worth sharing.