This story was originally shared by Open Future Learning.

A woman in a wheelchair sits on a dirt path in the forest.  The sun shines through the trees.

It is 10 o’clock on a Tuesday morning in June, in the forest. I am walking on a wide smooth path that leads through the forest to a lake. The sun is warm on my shoulders. I reach the lake, and the wooden bridge that leapfrogs across the wooded islands that dot its surface. The nesting birds and the bullfrogs are singing, and there are herons hunting in the shallows of the lake. I am not alone.

Vera is with me. She sits in the wheelchair I have pushed along the forest path, that I now push across the bridge, describing what I see as the day unfolds before us.

Vera cannot see, or walk, or speak. She is silent as we travel through the forest, but I know her well enough to know that she enjoys the feeling of the sun on her face, and the quiet of the woods away from the constant bustle of her group home. Vera lets me know when she’s content, and she lets me know when she’s not. As far as I can tell, in this moment, she is. And so am I.

It is a weekday morning, and I am present, here in this beautiful place in this good company, and I am doing my job. These are not stolen moments, but given ones, gifts we have given to one another.

Vera needs me to be here, of course, to drive her here, to help her in and out of her chair, to push it over the rough terrain out to the lake and back again. But I need her just as much.  Where would I be, on a Tuesday morning in summer, if not for her? Surely not here. Vera has set me free, however briefly, from the ironbound circles of the world as I know, from its rigid structures and endless demands, from its petty necessities and constant distractions. She has brought me here, to stand in the sun in the woods in June and describe the herons to her.

This morning is Vera’s gift to me, and it is just about the rarest and most precious thing in the world. Money cannot buy it. It can’t be quantified in a benefits package or a pension plan. God knows I have tried and failed all my life to give it to myself. But it is Vera’s gift alone to give, and I thank God I was here to receive it, at 10 o’clock on a Tuesday morning in June.

If you enjoyed this story be sure to read John Michael’s Gift.