Few, if any of us in the disability community, have easy days. Most are filled with challenges, frustration, and reminders of how our disability affects our daily lives. That raises the question of what keeps us going. I realize I can’t speak for all disabled individuals, nor do I want to, but I’ll venture a guess as to some of the answers they may give to that question if asked. Answers might include terms like fortitude, strength, courage, perseverance, beliefs, determination, attitude, or even anger. I know in my own life the thoughtfulness of others is an important factor, simple acts of kindness like holding a door open or a passing smile from a stranger. I’d be a millionaire if I had a dollar for each time someone has touched my shoulder to convey their empathy.
Several weeks ago I was reminded of the impact of kindness when invited to go fishing by a local fishing guide. On Monday July 23, 2012 Dean Meckes of Dean Meckes Charters, my son Mark and I went fishing on the St. Lawrence River. People at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York offered their lift to get me into the boat. Volunteers came in an hour before the museum opened just to transfer me from my power chair into my manual chair which had been placed in the boat’s cockpit. Once we were completely ready we headed out onto the St. Lawrence River.
The day was magical, a beautiful warm sunny day, a blue placid river and anticipation of an adventure to come. I had made a number of adaptions to my manual wheelchair and fishing tackle to help make me more independent, and I was anxious to see how they would perform. I didn’t have long to wait. I hooked a bass, by myself, shortly after we arrived at the first location. Reeling it in was no problem at all. From watching, Dean told me that I would be able to reel in a “big one.”
Dean was quick to try different areas of the river. At first, he drove slowly over concern as to how I would handle the jarring of the boat. Once we realized that was no problem, if there was no action where we were, we moved more quickly to another spot. We fished for several hours. My son and I caught a number of fish, which by the way, were all returned to the river. But I had caught way more than fish that day. I caught hours of serenity being on the river; concentrating on the tip of my pole watching for movement left little time to think about anything else and, in the end, I had hours when I even forgot I was in a wheelchair. There is no greater gift for me than that, which I received because of the generous act of kindness that day by our guide, Dean Meckes.