Today I witnessed a near-tragedy. Today I found hope in the new generation. Today I stood between two men and saw the past and the future.
I was driving home from errands and as I came to the stop sign at a neighborhood intersection, an old man’s stand-up walker hit the curb, twisted and flipped him forward–like a bicycle when the front breaks jam. He was a small, bony man and was instantly down–first onto the prone walker, then he rolled over onto the concrete and slid into the gutter. His arms and legs flailed like an overturned turtle. He did not have the strength to right himself. His belongings flew everywhere–the food container he’d just bought, his jacket, his expensive camera, his cane. I pulled over, put on my emergency flashers, and ran to his side.
At the same time a tall, thin young man with curly red hair pulled over and joined me. Together we lifted the old man, collected his belongings and walked him to his home–an assisted living facility almost a mile away! As we walked, the young man joined in conversation–he’d just graduated from high school, was on his way home from a game of golf, and was headed to college to become an orthopedic surgeon. Having had eleven hip surgeries myself, and having just come off a walker a year ago following the most serious surgery to date, I found I had much in common with both men. One, older than me, a Navy veteran, but clearly in the mid stages of dementia and losing mobility; the other a sweet boy just starting his life. One ending/one beginning their respective journeys.
The three of us walked together and talked like friends, even though the old man kept repeating himself and asked who we were. When we got him to his residence I spoke with the executive director and desk staff. I explained what had happened and how far away this man was from safety. Clearly they were worried, stated they would evaluate him for injuries, and yet the look of fear regarding their liability in not supervising a wanderer with dementia was evident.
The young man and I returned to our vehicles and I told him I was proud to have met him, that his mama raised him right, and that he gave me confidence in the future of his generation. There are good people out there. More importantly, there are good YOUNG people out there. I came home feeling hopeful, grateful, and honored to have met this remarkable young man.
Today I helped a man who contributed to his country. Today I met a boy on his way to contributing to the world.