Friday, September 10, 2010

A Song I Can't Sing Again

"Her Name Was JoAnn," and so I would sing that old Michael Nesmith tune to her in my patented atonal manner.  "And she lived in a meadow by a farm...," the lyrics continued. 

But although our JoAnn lived in a wheelchair, that chair did not define her any more than costume wings make one a bluebird.  

Our JoAnn worked as a senior aide in the building I used to manage. The job came through a federal grant to pay seniors a small (really small!) wage to do tasks in workplaces.  Sometimes, the senior aides worked harder and did more than the workforce they were there to supplement, and sometimes the seniors learned new skills and honed talents such as using a PC or postage meter, or watching me stab myself in the palm of my left hand while trying to simultaneously a) open a package and b) talk to a guy named Bob.  I have a place where four stitches were used to prove that it's best to pay more attention to the blade cutter than to Bob.  

But that's how JoAnn came to us, through this program, and I always liked the program because we got to meet some pretty cool people and get some chores done, and they got to do something better than sit around watching Regis all morning.  Being in a wheelchair and being a person with cerebral palsy never took away the gift that JoAnn had to share with us.  She was unfailingly pleasant, cheerful, kind, generous, and would be willing to undertake any task.  As we got to know her, we found that her parents had told her that she was less of a person for her condition, and they told her it didn't even matter if she finished school or learned a trade.  They just seemed to dismiss her, and how wrong that was...

Because JoAnn was sent to this earth and to our workplace as an angel.  Now look, I'm not going all George Bailey on you here, but I do see religion as a positive force on our lives, and I think that God sends examples down here all the time, little parables to show us the way.  When you see some pompous horse's patootie get his come-uppance - and believe me, most uppances will come - maybe there are celestial forces behind it.  And when someone down on their luck hits it big...and when hard work pays off...and when people are shown that virtue is its own reward...maybe that's when the angels among us start ringing their bells.

Because you'd have to be the biggest oaf in the world to be working with a woman who would have given anything to have the motor-skill ability that most of us are blessed to have, and then complain about having a headache or an aching duodenum or something. 

Because anyone could see the gift that JoAnn brought us.  I told some of the folks, the twinkle in her eye when someone cracked a joke or sang a silly song was like the twinkling of a star in the clear night sky.  

Freed of the earthly bonds that kept her legs from running, but never her heart and mind and soul, JoAnn danced across the night sky last night, and went home. If you were lucky, and you knew her, you saw her twinkle. 

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