I meet up with friends Robert and Binal, just as Robert's setting up his crutches. I've seen the drill at the rehab gym, but today there are a few extra steps. Binal slides elbow protectors up Robert's arms to guard against rubbing. She wraps his right hand with Velcro, fastens it to the handle of the crutch.
My job is easy -- to push the wheelchair. Just in case.
Exactly one year ago – on June 9, 2012 – Robert suffered a spinal cord injury. (See his early steps here.) He's been fighting back ever since. With a year of strengthening, stretching, and strenuous work behind him, he is ready to meet this challenge. A FULL MILE. On foot.
“Take your time,” she says, rushing ahead.
"Bring her back here," Robert tells us. "I want to race."
|Time for water ice!|
Already, my little leg is soaked inside its socket. Robert isn’t the only one testing himself today. Binal shadows him step-by-step, her hands inches from his hips. And although this mile isn't about me, I wonder how I’m going to STAND long enough to finish it!
But we've all agreed.
If Robert's going for it, so are we!
We meet a 3-legged dog named Charlie, out on his very first walk.
We even pass a woman strutting around topless -- making history of her own.
At the half-mile mark, we hear a friendly call from behind. “Hey you guys!” Surprise. It’s our yoga teacher Fatima, from the rehab gym!
It takes us 2 lights to cross each street. When the first walk signal flashes, we step to the bottom of the curb cut. Robert braces on his crutches. Binal stands behind him. My Genium and I pause mid-stance, waiting for the light to change again. Traffic zooms by.
There's a parade coming!
(Not for us, but it certainly feels like it.)
|Sweaty, tired, and ready for the HOMESTRETCH!|
|Click to read the t-shirt.|
Pretty much says it all!
In front of us, a little girl stumbles on the sidewalk. She's trying to keep up with her family, yet at the same time, she's craning her neck to stare backwards at us. I imagine what she must see -- Robert’s crutches, my robot leg, the wheelchair. Lots of metal glimmering in the sun.
Once on a school field trip, a tour guide told me that the answer to almost any Philadelphia history trivia question is Benjamin Franklin. He accomplished a lot. But here's what people don't realize. When Ben Franklin started out in Philly, he was just the editor of a small-town newspaper.
Through the sweat and fun of Mile 1135, Robert teaches me the trick to MAKING HISTORY.
You don't have to start big. You just have to take small, brave risks, one after the other.
One step at a time. One day at a time. One year at a time.
Congratulations Robert -- on a very HISTORIC first mile!!!