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Vignettes: Gratitude in Central Park, NYC

The sun was dappling through the trees in Central Park, and sparkled on the waters of the pond. Families were spread out on picnic blankets enjoying the warm spring day. Couples sauntered hand in hand, stopping now and then to kiss. A few bikinis dotted the grass here and there as bodies eagerly soaked up the pre-summer sun. And exercise-conscious people jogged and walked around the lake while others cycled or roller skated on the designated pathways.

Along the edge of the pond a small man-made beach had been created. Two little girls were playing happily in the white sand oblivious to the quaint picture they made. Each had a large, floppy, white bow tied to one side of their short, bobbed, blond hair, and they were wearing drop-waist, pleated sun dresses, short white socks, and black patent ankle strap shoes. They could have stepped right out of a Victorian photograph. In some small way I was reminded of my childhood. As I watched them with amusement and nostalgia, a movement a few yards away caught my eye.

Under a large spreading tree I saw a woman. She may have been Korean or Vietnamese. She stood beside a large, almost bed-like wheelchair in which sat/laid a man. He was obviously paralyzed or fairly severely handicapped. I could not tell his age. Perhaps it was her adult son or her husband or a brother. She stood in front of him slightly to his right, her right hand lay on his right knee and she glanced around at her surroundings.

As I watched, she took a step forward and gently rubbed her right cheek against his. Then turning slightly she placed her lips against his cheek and began to speak softly to him. Was she describing the beauty of the scenery? Was she telling him she loved him? I do not know. I was not privy to her words. She then stepped back to her original position and moved over and placed her left hand on his left knee. She glanced around once more, then leaned into his left cheek, first rubbing it with her own before placing her lips there and speaking softly once again. It was a profoundly moving scene.

This time I had a clear view of the man’s profile. He moved his head ever so slightly up and down and from side to side, while a small smile hovered on his lips. I felt his joy and his happiness in those small gestures and humbly offered a prayer of gratitude. Gratitude for my own health and gratitude that I had been allowed to share this incredibly intimate moment between these two people. I will never know who they were, but my life is richer for their short presence in it.