by Stephen Arsenault
Washington, D.C, USA
At age 25, I was assistant manager for a video store, but wasn’t challenged enough. With an empty feeling inside, I knew I had potential to do better, so after five long years I quit. I had a week to find a new job to meet my car payment, rent, etc. Just a week.
Having quit on Monday, Tuesday my friend Jeff called. Jeff has cerebral palsy and asked me to care for him because his regular worker would finish that week. The next day I applied at the company which hired his caretakers.
I started working with Jeff the following week. It was difficult, as I provided full-time care, made far less money than previously, and it required working more hours than I could be paid for. But it was rewarding. I began to believe in Jeff, to see he had so much potential.
That summer Jeff decided to go back to school. To make it happen, I’d need to go, too, so with the interest we both have in computers, we applied at a local college. They accepted us and the only drawback was my tuition money. I wrote student loans explaining my situation.
At that point, many people pressured us not to go back to school. People said Jeff probably couldn’t do the work because of his diabilities. I understood people wanted him to be realistic about what he attempts.
I decided to yield, to abandon my chance for school, and was hired part-time at city hospital as a patient-care attendant. The morning I planned to quit the school called — and said to start anyway, don’t worry about money.
We started. Daily we left Jeff’s place at 7:00 a.m. and went to school until 5:00 pm. That fall I nervously wrote and called about my student loan — still no word. After Christmas, I miraculously received my money, and finally paid the school.
During the 19 month class many people left because they couldn’t handle it. Jeff soared to the top of the class and excelled in all subjects. He was amazing. My marks weren’t that great, but I passed every course and we both graduated. When I pushed Jeff across the stage graduation night his wheelchair seemed lighter.
I cried that night when I got home — we did it. At one point, I nearly gave up because people said I couldn’t do it, because there was no money. We had a goal, went the distance, and made it across the finish line, not alone but together. You should have seen Jeff’s face at graduation… when they called him up for the “oustanding achievement” award.
We are presently working at “on the job training” at a software company. Underneath it all, we owe our chance to the people at student loans. We’re not sure where this road will lead, but it’s already taken us farther than I could have imagined. It is proof that dreams sometimes come true, with a little help at the right time.
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 1.