When I was in the 8th grade in Ohio, a girl that rode the same school bus I did had a terrible accident. As she was running to the bus so as not to miss it, she slipped on ice and fell under the rear wheels of the bus. She survived the accident but was paralyzed from the waist down.
I went to see her, and in my 13 year-old mind I recall thinking that she wouldn’t have much of a life now. Over the years, I moved, married, and had children, and didn’t think much about Helen after that.
Three years ago in Florida, my oldest son was hit by a car while riding his bike, thrown 90 feet, and landed on his head, suffering a horrid brain injury. Semicomatose, he was transferred to a rehabilitation center. While in my son’s room, the phone rang, and it was the center’s social worker. It was a particularly trying day. I burst into tears for no reason, and heard the click of the call being disconnected.
A short time later, a beautiful woman in a wheelchair rolled into my son’s room with a box of tissue. After 16 years, I still recognized Helen. She smiled, handed me the tissue, and motioned for me to come closer. I did, and she hugged me. I told her who I was, and after we both got over the shock of that, she began to tell me about her life since we last saw each other. She had children, was happily married, and got her degree so that she could smooth the path for those less fortunate than her. She told me that if there was anything she could give me, it would be hope.
Looking at this wonderful, giving person, I felt small. But I also felt the hope she gave me, the first I had felt since learning how badly my son was hurt. From this person that I thought would have no quality of life, I learned to never give up — ever. And I learned that when there is life, there is hope. My son miraculously recovered and we moved back north, but I owe Helen a debt that I can never adequately repay.
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 1.