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Life out here by Bret Kofford: Scrambling to our feet

April 03, 2002

The first thing that caught my eye on Main Street in the eastern part of downtown El Centro last week was three grown men holding hands as they walked.

"Don't see that much this side of Hillcrest," I thought snidely.

Then all three turned around, and it was apparent that two of the men had either a physical or mental disability, or both, and the third man, a counselor or aide, was walking and talking with them.

What the three were looking back on was the rest of the group of disabled people walking and wheeling down Main, with the help of a walker here and an aide there. There was a beautiful young lady in a wheelchair leading the pack, followed by a smiling young man in a motorized chair and various others moving along at various paces with various or no means of propulsion.

Everyone seemed happy, everyone seemed pleasant. Wherever they had been had put the group in a good mood … unless the group is that way all the time.

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No one was happier than the fellow pushing the wheelchair of his friend. One of the clients in the group, the power source was small, knock-kneed and pigeon-toed and didn't have the best balance, but he was pushing the chair with all his might. He was delighted with his effort and so, it seemed, was everyone else in the group.

Then he fell. Right on his rump.

I had to move up in traffic but I looked back and could see he was OK. He seemed to still be smiling. I tried to keep watching between cars as I moved forward, and I saw him get back to his feet, with little if any help, at least that I could see. He then started walking enthusiastically toward one of two buses bus parked at the corner of Fourth and Main.

I took a right turn and got on with my life. Or tried, anyway. But the little guy, the little guy who was trying to be helpful, who got knocked down but scrambled to his feet, who took help if he needed it, then bounded forward, that little guy stayed with me.

Thank goodness he did. I needed him.

Three weeks before the day I saw him I had my car egged, and egged expertly. I cleaned the car, but some of the egg got into various cracks in the car, making it stink miserably for a couple days until I found the rotting, stealth slime and wiped it away.

Two weeks before I had my car burglarized. The thieves stole about $3 worth of change, a $250 pair of prescription sunglasses (another pair is not covered by the health plan at work for another year) and my car's ashtray, apparently thinking I still keep my stash of crack in there.

The night before I saw the little guy I had all four hubcaps stolen off my car, which put me in a foul mood all morning. (A couple days later, I have to admit, I started to get a fondness for the wheel-cover-free look. It made my car look tough, like a sockless Mike Tyson walking into the ring for a brawl.)

Still, it was the hubcap theft that pushed me toward the edge, because, along with the aforementioned occurences, there had been assorted incidents around the house in recent weeks. I don't know if it's the new neighborhood, youthful pranks, something (or many things) I've written, or all of the above, but it has been a bad run.

The truth is we all have bad days, bad months, bad years, bad freakin' decades. Some of us have more to overcome than others, but most of us are lucky, me included. I have a good life, and in those times when I don't, I usually don't stay down for long. I am quick to bounce back to my feet, even from hard blows. I am resilient. Either that or I am shallow. Maybe I'm resiliently shallow.

Still, with the above-mentioned shots and a few others I won't even talk about in the newspaper, I could have stayed down longer than I should have last week.

But after seeing that scene on the street last week of the little guy with all the heart, I realized all I need is a little bit of perseverance, a bit of faith, and a bit of goodwill to keep marching forward. If he can keep trudging forward with a smile, so can I.

The little guy was only trying to help that day. He has no idea how much he did.

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