We were there to get Kristie. She was waiting for us in the lobby, sitting in her wheelchair. She can walk, but very unsteadily. She doesn't seem to be fully in control of her body. Plus, she's blind.
As we wheeled Kristie to the van she leaned forward and held her hands to her ears. Like noise was hurting her. We put a stool out, helped her step up into the van and find her way onto a seat. We folded her wheelchair and put it in the back.
The van was overcrowded. To make room I sat on the stool between the driver's and passenger's seats at the front of the van, facing backwards. I was sitting, almost knee to knee, with Kristie. But she couldn't see me.
I spoke with a gentle voice, "Hello Kristie. How are you today?"
Her hands were still close to her ears. As if she was keeping them at the ready, expecting a loud noise to assault her.
"Who are you?" she asked, not recognizing my voice.
"My name is Richard, I'm going to help pick people up and I'm learning the route today. I'll be picking you up from time to time."
"Okay," she said.
"So, how was your day today?" I asked.
"It was hectic. How was yours?"
She talked out of the side of her mouth. It looked like part of her face was slightly paralyzed.
"My day was a little hectic too. Why was your day hectic?"
I made my voice as soft and gentle as I could make it. Tender. Her hands came down and rested in her lap.
"I don't like where I live."
"What don't you like about where you live?"
"It's too loud. Too noisy."
I noted that there were loud people in the lobby when we picked her up. I understood now, a bit, about her hands being over her ears.
We got to the church. I got off the stool, climbed over the seat and out the door. I set down the stool and opened the van doors. I put my hand on Kristie's knee.
"Kristie, I'm right here. Ready to step out?"
She swung her legs out. We helped them find the stool. She stood and rested her arm over my shoulders.
That's what I remember now. Her arm around my shoulders.
That feeling. Feeling blessed. The moment I was holding her.