At 3 o’clock, on any given day of the week, you will find Tracey and me in the employee break area getting an afternoon cup of raspberry tea. Well actually, you will probably hear us before you see us… zipping through the hallways past our coworkers’ cubicles and meeting rooms… Tracey cruising in her pink and black wheelchair, and me, walking quickly to keep up with her speedy pace!
Of course, it’s not uncommon to see women going places together—out to lunch, out to coffee, or even heading to the bathroom in pairs. But there’s a reason Tracey and I get tea together. She has spinal muscular atrophy which progressively weakens the muscles in her body, making things like grabbing a cup, opening a tea bag packet, pouring hot water, and carrying a hot beverage, very difficult, if not impossible.
But, I don’t mind being her ‘hands.’ In fact, I look forward to helping Tracey throughout the day by heating up her lunch, removing her jacket when it gets too hot, wrapping her legs with a blanket if it gets too cold, or even scooting her body over to adjust her seating position in her wheelchair so that she’s comfortable. I don’t mind at all because Tracey is my friend, and I just love her!
Tracey’s friendship to me is a true blessing because she loves the Lord Jesus, has amazing experience working in the social service field, is well read, and has a great sense of humor. Our time together is uplifting, and it doesn’t bother me if we have to coordinate extra steps to hang out. For example, if we go out to lunch, I am able to borrow the accessible van her husband typically uses so I can drive her to the restaurant. We also check to make sure the place we’re going is accessible with curb cuts, ramps, and widened pathways. Even though my natural tendency is to fly by the seat of my pants, we take extra care to ensure Tracey will be able to easily maneuver wherever we go.
Speaking of Tracey’s husband, what’s a girl to do when Christmas rolls around and she wants to wrap presents for her man, but can’t use her hands? It was so much fun to help Tracey prepare for the holiday season by wrapping the gifts she had purchased online (thank goodness for Amazon!) and had shipped to her home. Her husband made sure to lay out the bows, tape, and assorted wrapping paper to make the process easy. I think Tracey had fun directing me with each particular bow and paper as I wrapped her husband’s gifts, and I know she was blessed to have beautiful packages under the tree as she and her husband looked forward to Christmas Day.
Knowing someone like Tracey is a gift from the Lord for so many reasons. And even when there are limitations and challenges, her willingness to ask for help and communicate what she needs only deepens our friendship. I am happy to be her ‘hands’ and hope the Lord brings someone into your life who will bless you as much as Tracey has blessed me.
Crystal Keating serves with the Response Department at Joni and Friends, providing encouragement and practical resources for people affected by disability. She has advocated for true life in Christ to women with unwanted pregnancies, homeless families, and neglected children since 2000. She is also a graduate student, studying marriage and family counseling.