Guided by the String
It was my first week interning, and Susan had taken an instant disliking towards me. She ignored the small talk I made at lunch, and cut off my attempts to guide her through her activities. When I pushed her wheelchair towards the lobby, she rasped, "Stop! Let me go!"
Several times a day I deliberated asking for a different client. However, I ultimately decided against it. "Remember, the poor woman suffered a traumatic brain injury," I rationalized. Instead I made it my goal to get through to Susan.
Over the next few days I burned a CD for her, showcased a puppet show with friends, and flashed her smiles whenever I saw her. Still, her face was permanently set in a frown. I began to wonder if she was physically unable to smile around me. Frustrated, I decided to stop trying to gain her acceptance. I resolved from then on to sit quietly beside her, unless the unlikely scenario arose that she asked for my help.
The next day, we gathered in the common room to start the day's activities. The interns were to assist the clients through a crossword. I firmly planted myself beside her, resisting any urge to make suggestions.
Several moments passed. Then she broke the silence—"Well, are you going to help me or not?" she asked amusedly. "Three across." I stared at her a moment, trying to absorb that she was asking for my help. Then I suggested, "K..." "I-T-E," she finished.
When I inquired why she received (this isn't the right word) me then, she told me that in the past, I accepted her simply out of pity. That day, I was treating her as a thinking human being.
Only then did I become conscious of how strong she was. Susan was disabled in the traditional sense, but everyone in the world was "disabled." Most "fully functioning" people could not exhibit the same honesty that she did. Unlike the high school students I knew so well, she did not feign acceptance towards behaviors she disapproved of for the sake of conformity.
I realized that I could not judge everyone on the same standard because everyone had encountered different circumstances and responded uniquely to them. My practice of categorizing people as "pleasant" or "unpleasant" based on how I perceived them on the surface was flawed.
Before I had treated Susan as bicycle that needed to be steered into the right path. However, that day I allowed her to be who she truly was; Susan was a kite— guided, not controlled by the string.
With these discoveries swirling through my mind, I carted Susan towards the front of the facility, remembering to stop midway. She then boarded a white Outreach van and glided off into the horizon.
Okay, I slightly revised. Please help!