By JIM NICHOLS
In the middle 1980s there was a popular television show titled “The A-Team.” Re-done as a movie several years later, it followed a set of four unorthodox ex-soldiers who devised elaborate designs to right some perceived wrongs in the world. Their leader was Hannibal Smith and at the end of every adventure (each of which, of course, was successful) he would say “I love it when a plan comes together.”
As concocted as the show was, it was a testimony to cooperation among the disparate team members. It was a good sample of what humans can do when they have a common goal, even a simple one.
The Tuesday Delivery Guy (TDG) had a route of meal recipients. Every Tuesday he delivered a hot meal to a set of people who were generally unable to take good care of themselves in many ways, including eating. Besides needing food, these people often had other needs. To many, these concerns would appear easy to solve, but to them they were nearly insurmountable.
The woman in the story lived by herself in a single house. With limited mobility, she made her way around the small dwelling in a wheelchair and seemed generally satisfied with life. Occasionally, she would voice some complaints or problems to TDG; he listened patiently but was not in a situation to help her with solutions . . . except for one.
The woman occasionally needed to go for a medical appointment. As a non-driver without a car, she relied on a taxi or Uber. She was mobile enough to move from her wheelchair into the vehicle, but first had to get herself and the wheelchair out of the house and down the sidewalk. There were three steps from the sidewalk to her front porch. Every time she left the house, others had to lift her in the wheelchair from the porch to the sidewalk. This was not a small woman, so this was a significant effort required by others. Returning home required the reverse effort.
“I wish I had a wheelchair ramp,” she said.
Later, TDG received an applicable comment from another recipient. He said that he had a brother-in-law who had just been released from jail and one provision of his freedom was that he had to perform some civic services—the brother-in-law was a carpenter. When asked if he could construct a wheelchair ramp, the answer was a definite positive. TDG asked this recipient to ask his relative if he were willing to do this task and to get a detailed list of materials needed. What kind of wood in what sizes, bolts, and screws would be needed? A week later the TDG had a paper with a long list of materials needed plus an agreement that the parolee would build the ramp at no charge since it was part of his legal responsibility.
The TDG took that list to a lumber yard and explained the situation to the manager behind the desk. “Can you supply all these items in these quantities?”
“How much will these materials cost?”
The manager replied, “There will be not charge for this. If you are willing to get this constructed, the least I can do is give you the stuff to build it. What is the delivery address?”
In the subsequent week, TDG returned to make the lunch delivery and there was a newly constructed wheelchair ramp leading from the porch to the sidewalk. The woman said, “A truck backed up and unloaded all this wood in my yard and then another man I didn’t know built a ramp.”
Six people were involved in this incident: the woman, TDG, relative of the carpenter, carpenter, owner of the lumber yard, lumber truck driver. None of these people basically knew any of the others nor knew what the others contributed. “I love it when a plan comes together.”
This is a story about cooperation supplying access. In this case, access to be able to leave the house and travel to a needed appointment. You and I have opportunities to help supply access to others in many ways. Perhaps we cannot do it by ourselves, but we could cooperate with a few others to do some important things. It is worth looking for some needs and some fellow cooperators. Access in life is important.
Jim Nichols is a retired Abilene Christian University biology professor and current hospice chaplain