Kenny Gets Some Wheels
Kenny’s mother visited the Catholic Charities office with a request for clothing. She explained that Kenny was small for his 12 years. She then very casually asked if she could have change for a dollar. Apparently the family’s cars tires were worn and had many leaks so they had to be filled with air every time the car was used. Kenny’s Mom explained that her family lived in a rural part of the county so they had to go through the routine of filling the tires a couple of times each day because she had to drive Kenny a long distance each day to a special needs school. The change was for the air machine at the gas station.
A quick phone call was placed to Kenny’s school to see why he wasn’t being provided the state-mandated transportation daily pick up and drops off by the special school bus. The family had never inquired about school transportation. Communication easily solved this problem which would have an incredible impact on Kenny and his family. Another phone call arranged for Catholic Charities to buy a new set of tires for Kenny’s family car. No one had asked, but sometimes an opportunity is too obvious to pass up.
Kenny’s Mom jumped up and down as if she’d won the lottery when she heard the news. Her emotion was so contagious that the volunteers and everyone in the building was drawn into her happiness. She stopped suddenly and said, “You have to meet Kenny! Let me go get him!” Much to our surprise, Kenny had been sitting in the car waiting for his mother. The Catholic Charities family of staff and volunteers were happy to share in the delight that something as simple as a phone call and a set of tires could have such an impact on a family. THUD!…THUD!… THUD came from the outside porch. I’m sure they heard my gasp as I found this tiny Mom maneuvering the stairs with Kenny clinging to her back with his arms connected around her neck. Kenny was taller than his mom so the THUD was the noise of Kenny’s paralyzed legs banging against the stairs with each step his Mom took. Her face still held the excited smile and Kenny’s grin peaked out from behind his mom’s head with the same look of joy.
“These are the people that are getting you to school on the bus! These are the people that are going to fix the tires so we won’t have to keep stopping for air!” Kenny looked at us and through his grin said, “Well, thank you!” I knew that if I let the tears out that were bubbling inside me I might alarm the family or hurt Kenny’s sense of dignity. It only took a quick glance at the staff and volunteers to know they were holding back the same emotions. It was obvious to all of us that it was important that we share in this family’s joy. Another quick phone call arranged for a wheelchair to be delivered to Kenny’s house the next day. Apparently the school gave him a wheelchair loner every day, but he couldn’t bring it home at night. Once again, Mom did not inquire for help, and the school district didn’t offer any. Hearing Kenny talk about having his own wheelchair was unforgettable. He explained that his own wheelchair would make him feel “like every other kid.” Kenny and his mom left with the agreement that they would communicate clearly about future needs. With giddy giggles they exited the same way they entered with Kenny happily comfortable on his tiny mom’s back, and sneaking kisses as he hugged her neck. Next stop was not the air machine at the corner gas station, but at a tire merchant for installation of the new tires.
Of course when the door shut our Catholic Charities family reacted the way they always react. Hands that weren’t reaching for tissues were held over hearts as we took time to realize what had happened in the last thirty minutes. Kenny certainly didn’t see himself as handicapped. Catholic Charities just happened to be in the situation to offer him the same basic opportunities as others. Simple moments like this make Catholic Charities such a special place. My work positions me where I can see concrete linkages between the diocese’s commitment to implement the Church’s social teaching, people who pray for our agency’s efforts, a benefactor’s donation, a volunteer’s efforts, and even the training of our professionals. All factors securely linked together to form this perfect storm of love that draws in and touches people like Kenny and his family. Twenty-one years working for Catholic Charities agencies and I never get used to these moments. It’s unique. It’s divinely destined. It’s Catholic Charities.
By Diane Bullard
Central Region Office Director