A HAPPY LIFE...THEIRS AND MINE
Several years I taxied people to their work at a hotel laundry five days each week--and picked them up after their job. The four of them were "mentally challenged", in slang words, "retarded". The trip each way lasted nearly an hour. Coaches and counselors worked with these people regularly, but on these long rides, I could not help myself from an attempt at entertaining them--helping them to be happy, rather than bored or despondent.
A small pocket-sized tape recorder did the trick. Me, the driver, became Steve, the radio interview guy. Interviewing each in turn, I asked questions about their lives, work, parents, home, goals. After each taped interview, I'd play it back so all five had opportunity to hear each other's "life story". This went on for a number of months, before we all tired of it, ran out of questions as well as responses.
Typical interview began simply:
Q. Hello what is YOUR name?
Q. And Delores, what do you do?
And progressed in a week, to somewhat more revealing details:
Q. Dolly, (we had changed her name from Da-Low-russ...) what do like to do at home?
A. Help my sister clean house and do dishes. I like doing that. She wants me DON'T BREAK ANYTHING! I love my sister.
Q. John, what do you do in your spare time?
A. Well (ahem!) Steve...(pause, clearing throat)
I-I-I d-do a little bit of this,
a little bit of that,
and little bit of everything else!
After many days, our interviews got so complicated, that I'd write out questions for them at night at home...to keep the connection--and the fun--going.
These four (I remember their names even now, after 20 years!) changed over the course of time...and so did I. We became a closely knitted group, we prayed, talked, joked, and laughed together...a LOT!
I grew to love my "crew". One, a tiny, old black guy, was a deaf-mute...never looked up, never smiled, or joined in. I discovered that he might hear some things, because sometimes--in my rear-vision mirror--I caught him smiling at something which was repeated on tape. But he never spoke, although I had a feeling he could. There had probably been some trauma in his life.
To this day, when someone asks me what I did for my life's work, I answer,
"Oh...a little bit of this,
a little bit of that,
and little bit of everything else!"
Sunday December 22, 2013