I approached a man of about my age or older who was working at the Tavern keeping an eye on the outdoors. I asked him if he would mind if I scored a shady table while the family got food inside. He made a welcoming motion towards the tables and said, “Go ahead and take your pick.” I tried three until I found one that would allow me, in the big power chair, to get some shade. Joe and Ruby went inside to get veggie burgers and Marissa and Sadie headed over to get tacos. I was immediately glad to be sitting outside. It was perfect for people watching and, frankly, I prefer the natural cool of shade to the freezing falseness of air conditioning on high.
I set myself to wait enjoying the few minutes of alone time. Then suddenly, the fellow I had spoken to, the only other person in the area who would be ticking the same age range on forms and surveys that I would tick, appeared beside me. I hadn’t seen him coming. In his had was a plastic up full of ice water. He said, “I thought you might like this.” I watched him set it down gently beside me, I turned to him and said, “What a nice man you are.” He smiled and went back to his job.
I am not a person that people do nice things for. I am a person, stared at, pointed at, joked about and, often purposely, hurt. My size and my chair makes me a sweet target for bitter people. I was, momentarily stunned that a kind act, an act that recognized me as a fellow human, had happened, openly, in public. Giving me ice water was something he did because he wanted to, it’s not something that was in a job description, beyond a vague ‘treat customers with respect’ kind of statement. This wasn’t about doing his job this was about expressing his character. By then, there in Universal Studio’s theme park, we had seen lots of people dressed up in character, this guy though, he HAD character. Let’s face it, I was hot and tired and on vacation, he’d have been hot and tired and working – there’s a difference. I say it again, “What a nice man.”
When Marissa got back from the taco truck, long before Joe and Ruby would arrive with the veggie burger, we chatted about what happened. As as things do, because we both work with people with disabilities, we came round to talking about service provision in our field. We spoke about the difference between people who do what the job descriptions says, and then the people who do the same things but because of who they are and how they are, they do that little bit more, the unnecessary but desperately needed. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to bring the best of you to work and give it the opportunity to express, without words but with incredible impact, who you are.
Years from now, I will have forgotten various bits of this visit to Universal Studios. But I will remember the kind old guy and the glass of cold water. Kindness, unexpected, almost always winds up as memory, doesn’t it?