By Lynette Daniel-Klingman
When I was about 20 years old, I took a babysitting job for three little girls. The youngest had cerebral palsy and was confined to a wheelchair. Their mom had rented us a nice pool-side room in a local motel. The two older girls had fiery red hair and dispositions to match. They went out to play games near the room.
That left me with the youngest child, “Linda”. She had pretty long brown hair, a constant smile and a happy disposition. After a few minutes in the room I decided that just because Linda was in a wheel chair did NOT mean that we were going to stay in the room all night! I was determined to find *something* for her to do in that game room. So I grabbed a handful of quarters, put them in my pocket, and pushed her chair out of the room.
Unfortunately, all of the video game controls were too high for her to reach. The only thing she could reach was a bubblegum machine. When she tried to turn the handle, it wouldn’t move. I put my hand on hers, and together, we turned it. Bingo! The gumball fell and her eyes lit up at her “prize”. We went back many times that night, me pushing this laughing, bubbly girl with a mouthful of gum and blue-dyed lips.
I had been told that Linda had no feeling below the waist, but I learned that wasn’t true. At one point I wasn’t able to get her to the bathroom in time and her clothes became soiled, so I gave her a bath. When I finished dressing her, Linda laughed hysterically. She pointed at her bottom, since she could not speak. When I looked confused, she turned herself onto her side, still pointing, and laughing even harder! I checked and realized that I hadn’t pulled her underwear up all the way. I quickly fixed them. She thought my confusion was so hilarious that I was soon laughing too — and a bond was formed between us.
She knew how to make the best of her situation in life, and find the humor in everything. I hadn’t known that I would meet such a special child that night, or that Linda would teach me so much. In my car that night on the way home, I cried. As I cried for her I asked, “Why?”
I believe she was chosen to be different to touch the hearts of people like me, bringing tears of joy to anyone lucky enough to know her. After only one night with her, I felt like a different person, and 18 years later, I think of her often. I know I will never forget little Linda and the lessons she taught me about life. I learned it is possible to be happy even if you can’t do what other people can do — even if you are different.