Connie is not a person who thinks about limitations; she values her independence. She is also a very generous person and looks for opportunities to bless others. So when Connie’s power wheelchair broke and she was able to upgrade to a new one, she was very concerned about what would happen with her old wheelchair.
Karin Olsen manages the Communitas home where Connie lives and the two women have known each other for decades. She explains that Connie has never been able to walk and so a wheelchair has been a part of her daily life since childhood. It is no wonder then, that her wheelchair is more than a tool to her. Karin says Connie’s chair is an extension of herself, representing her freedom and independence.
“Her wheelchair makes her feel present, heard, and seen because it gives her the ability to get to the centre of things on her own,” Karin says.
While she waited for her new power chair to arrive, Connie had to use a manual chair, which meant that she was fully dependent on others to move around. This lack of freedom created anxiety within her. Unlike her power chair, which has a seat specifically fitted to Connie’s body, her manual chair had older seating that was worn out and no longer fit her well. This difference in support caused Connie to experience physical pain.
Since it would take such a long time for her new chair to arrive, it was agreed that her old chair would be repaired, which was done by 1st Choice Mobility in Abbotsford. This restored some of her independence while the necessary fittings and modifications for her new chair were made that would make it perfect for her needs.
The whole experience brought home to Connie how important a tool her power chair is. Knowing that she would eventually get a new chair, she began to ask Karin what would happen to her old one.
She asked me so often and with such concern that it quickly became apparent that this was very important to her.– Karin, manager
It didn’t feel right to Connie that her old wheelchair would just go unused or worse, end up in a landfill. Wasn’t there a way that she could share it with someone who needed one?
Karin was already aware of a business in Chilliwack that refurbishes used medical equipment making it available to people at a reduced cost. Together, Connie and Karin made a plan to bring her chair to this business when her new chair arrived. Still, Connie seemed unsatisfied.
“She continued to ask me over and over who was going to get her chair. It seemed that Connie needed to know specifically who the person was,” Karin says. “It took me a while to clue into the fact that Connie had a feeling that God had someone specific in mind for it.”
And it seems that God did.
One weekend, Karin learned of a retired pastor who was scheduled to have his leg amputated due to complications of diabetes. Mobility was going to be a challenge because of concerns with his joints and weakness in his arms.
“I thought to myself, ‘this man needs a power chair’ and when I told Connie about him, she immediately said ‘he needs my old chair!’,” Karin says.
It turned out that there were some Communitas connections to the retired pastor: his wife had worked with the organization as a Residential Support Worker and his brother had been supported through Communitas’ Brain Injury services. Knowing that this man could benefit from her chair and that they were both connected to Communitas confirmed for Connie that her chair was meant for him.
“Connie no longer felt anxiety and she told everyone who would listen that she was going to bless this family with her chair,” Karin says.
An additional blessing came when Ray Thibeault at 1st Choice Mobility, who had repaired the chair initially, now completely reconfigured the chair at no cost. He felt this was important when he learned that Connie was donating the chair to this pastor.
Connie was thrilled to deliver the chair herself. Because of Covid restrictions, she was unable to meet the pastor personally but “met” him through the window of the rehabilitation centre where he was recovering from surgery. She was also able to see, from a distance, when the chair was delivered to his home. His wife told Connie that God had used her to bless their family. Connie was overwhelmed with emotion. As they drove home, she told Karin how good it felt to give her chair to someone who needed it.
“It has been a good chair for me. It will be a good chair for him, too,” Connie said. “He will be able to move around in it, like me, and he won’t be stuck or left behind.”
Karin was moved by Connie’s response.
“What a gift! She loved that chair and she really needed to see it bring life to someone else,” she says. “Connie told me she thinks it will give the gentleman a whole new lease on life. And she would know what that feels like.”