Several times per week, I make the trip from my office near one end of my company’s building, down the back utility hall, clear to the other end of the building, a city block’s length, to our shipping department. I often need to ship an object that’s small enough to fit in my shirt pocket, but more valuable to its recipient than anything purchased on Rodeo Drive, all but irreplaceable: A wheelchair component that someone needs to get his or life back in motion, where such a seemingly mundane piece of metal, or plastic, or wire means the difference between passing finals in college or not taking them, enjoying a vacation or being confined to a hotel room, arriving to work on time or getting laid off, or being mobile to join family in the backyard or being stuck in bed – the difference between truly thriving or merely existing.
I’m reminded of the gentleman who flew from Minnesota to Maui, for the honeymoon he and his wife skipped decades before because of the accident that left him a quadriplegic just weeks prior to their original wedding date. As they rolled him off of the airplane in Maui via an aisle chair, approaching his powerchair on the tarmac of paradise in March, he immediately noticed a glaring omission: The goal-post joystick knob that he needed to drive his powerchair was gone. The difference between independence and dependence on the trip of a lifetime came down to a formed piece of plastic that fit in a shirt pocket, that cost less than a couple of Starbuck coffees to get it to the user within 48 hours, restoring his ability to stroll the walks of Kaanapali Beach with his wife for the following 11 days.
Indeed, some stories tell more cinematic than others, but there’s no difference among them, where the woman who can’t use her powerchair in her house because the joystick cable broke by catching on a doorknob isn’t any less impacted by not having a vital wheelchair component than the young lady set to march in the Rose Parade, who’s puppy got a hold of her charger cord, preventing her from charging her powerchair days before the big event. When life is on hold, there’s no hierarchy, just need. Like loosing the key to one’s house, suddenly not having among the most common wheelchair components can strip one of the aspects of life needed the most.
Sometimes I pause for a moment in our shipping department, watching boxes of many shapes and sizes flowing down they conveyor line, knowing that other wheelchair manufacturers serve similar needs, where the cumulative stories are endless, where I wish I could follow each package out the door, to where somewhere in transit, the seemingly mundane parts in boxes transform into invaluable keys that open lives.