I Met a Man with Character this Week

I Met a Man with Character This Week

By Paul R. Blake



            (In December 1995 while living in Youngstown, Ohio, I volunteered to help out at the Columbiana County Workshop for the Disabled for one day. I met over a hundred people who had every apparent reason to bemoan their lot; but instead, they chose to make a good, happy life within the confines of their mental and physical limitations. Often, the children of this world shame professed children of God. The following article was written about that experience.)

            I met a man with character this week. Let's call him Michael. He and I have one thing in common: we are both 35 year old men. But there, the similarity ends.

            Michael works in a place where the only jobs to be had are menial, repetitive labor. He does the same thing, hour after hour, day after day, performing tasks that most people would find dull, doing work that many folk would call unnecessary.

            I do not.

            Michael has a severe physical disability. He is confined to a wheelchair and must be strapped in an upright position. He cannot walk without the assistance of someone who will walk with him holding him upright. If he wants to stand alone, he must do so in a corner, supported by two walls. His right arm is contracted into the shape of the letter "Z" and is completely unusable. Michael must depend on the kindness of others just to move.

            I do not.

            Michael can only say one word... "Yeahhh!" He simply says 'yes' to any question asked of him, for he cannot hold a conversation with anyone. He has never passed the time of day talking about the weather or his favorite sports team. He has never been able to say, "I love you" to his mother, or "Thank you" to a caring friend, or "Isn't that a beautiful sunset" to a passing stranger. He endures the frustration of never being able to express himself or to be understood by others.

            I do not.

            Michael works to the uttermost limit of his capacity. When asked to use his shriveled right arm, he glares intently at it as if by sheer force of will he can unbind the contracted muscles. Trembling all over, he struggles with the frozen joints, and the twisted arm jerks back and forth, up and down.  So Herculean are his efforts that his left arm is extended out in the air with the fist clenched in white knuckled defiance of his limitations. When requested to reach overhead to perform a task, he presses his head and shoulders back against a sharply curved spine and works with his left arm upraised until he doesn't have the strength to lift it from the table. And all the while, Michael looks warmly into the eyes of his companion and keeps a pleasant smile on his face. As I watched his intense efforts, my eyes clouded with tears and a lump formed in my throat, because Michael strives to the absolute limit of his existence to do what is asked of him.

            And I... I... I met a man with character this week.

            Solomon: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might" (Ecc. 9:10).

            Apostle Paul: "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward" (Col. 3:23-24).

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