How I met the happiest person I was ever privileged to meet
I met her when I was around 19 years old during my voluntary year of social service. I had the pleasure to help in an office for easy language. Over there, people with disabilities translate complicated documents into an easier version.
The goal is to make every document and every text accessible for everyone or at least for a broad audience. My job was to help the employees at work and with their every day life and to do some little graphic design.
About the happiest person I was ever privileged to meet
She is in the middle of her forties and she is tied to her wheelchair. She was born with a spasticity that only lets her control her eyes and her head a little. Every other part of her body is a subject of the spasticity. Her body, not her mind. Her mind is so bright and full of wonderful thoughts that it’s impossible to not love her at first sight.
How to break the ice
Many people, me included, act with restraint when they meet her first. She is aware of this and knows how to break the ice: Make fun of yourself. She has a screen computer attached to her wheelchair and communicates with him via eye-tracking. Yes, the computer is masculine. His name is Tobii. Every sentence she tells Tobii to pass on comes out with a little wink. She is such a humorous person and knows some smutty jokes.
She loves to travel and she loves animals. She often visits horse shows and makes holidays at the North Sea in Germany. And she had a dog, Sara, which unfortunately died before I met her. Other things she enjoys are music, films and photography. She even had done a nude photo shoot several years ago. As you can see she has a wide range of interests and is passionate about what she watches, listens to and loves. Last but not least she visits many conferences about topics like her wheelchair, the technology and life.
How she manages to do all this
All these activities are possible to do for her because of a 24/7 help. She has 6 – 8 assistants who help her in 24 hour shifts. These guys are really different people. Some students of course but also some older people. They are all different in what they are actually into. One of them studied economics. The other guy engages in a nature conservation organisation. Another one had just migrated to Germany. I’m still so impressed by her open mind and her way to understand people.
She has a strict schedule which is planned like a timetable at school. This is important because she is a busy person. She keeps up with a lot of discussions about people with disabilities. She is always up to date with the technology she uses and also has a lot of friends who expect regular mails. I once saw her schedule and it was impressive to see because there were no downtimes at all. She divides every day into 30 minute time-boxes with a specific purpose.
Usually her assistants have a driver license but she also hired one or two without one. Generally this caused no problems. But on some days her plans on travelling or just going to work correlated with an assistant without a driver license. That was the point when we developed a deeper connection. Because I was happy to help her out when needed.
How we got to know each other
So I started to pick her up on some days. I took the bus to her home to drive with her car. This car is a minibus with a special hydraulic lift for her wheelchair. It was always fun to drive her around because she loves music. And she loves music to be loud. So we spend a lot of time in the car and even watched “The intouchables” at the cinema together.
What I learned from the happiest person I was ever privileged to meet
You may notice her wheelchair first. But when taking a second glance her happiness will shine on you like the first rays of dawn. She is enthusiastic, powerful and passionate. She loves what she does: Living. To the fullest.
This happiness didn’t come to her because she enforced it. This will only make happiness run away. She slightly began to embrace it. Happiness needs to be cuddled. It needs a soft hug at the start. You can’t just decide to be happy from one day to another. It’s a process to establish happiness in your life.
She wouldn’t be where she is now without curiosity. She always wants to learn about the latest technologies to improve her life. And she is curious about other people and their stories. This combination is a great part of her wonderful personality.
It’s fascinating how she faces every situation and meets other people. You can always see how thankful she is about every particular contact. Great things may come to those who ask for something. But greater things lie ahead of those who just say thank you for everything in the first place.
I got the inspiration to write this when I thought about her while watching The Theory of Everything.