Obviously, living with a disability has its challenges. But that doesn’t mean disabled people want to be pitied or treated differently. They just want to live their lives while getting the same respect as everybody else, but even that can get tricky.
When a wheelchair-bound man couldn’t access the bus due to some unsympathetic fellow passengers, he was certain that his commute or even his day would be ruined. Luckily, someone stepped in to set things straight, proving that a little decency goes a long way.
Making your way around a large, crowded city when you have a disability is definitely not easy. So, confined to a wheelchair, when Francois Le Berre travels through Paris, France, he faces his fair share of hiccups.
Francois suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, which is an autoimmune condition that can impede someone’s ability to move. He’s had the condition for years and adapted well to wheeling around.
But he’s not alone: Multiple Sclerosis, or M.S., is thought to affect around two million people globally. Other symptoms besides trouble walking include problems with sight, muscle strength, and numbness. There is no cure as of yet, but it can be treated.
Fortunately for Francois, he lived in the outskirts of the city where there were still plenty of buses. They were wheelchair friendly, too, complete with ramps and designated space for people with disabilities.
Jarrett Walker / Twitter
On October 18, 2018, Francois and his brother were in the French suburb of Porte de Clichy, just outside the center of Paris. As per usual, they waited for the bus to go into the city.
Normally, there was already room for at least one person in a wheelchair, and when there wasn’t, people would move. In fact, there were signs on the bus indicating certain spots were reserved for people with disabilities, pregnant women, or the elderly.
However, on October 18th, this was far from the case. When the bus came to a halt, the driver brought out the wheelchair ramp, and Francois tried to board the vehicle. Unbelievably, the other passengers refused to make space for him!
“Yesterday, while waiting for the bus in Paris, I laughed because no one wanted to budge,” Francois recalled. Still, he was used to those kinds of things, so he didn’t let it get to him. It did get to one person, however.
“When nobody was willing to move, the driver got up and said ‘Terminus! Everybody off the bus!’” Francois said. The driver would not sit idly by. He punished everyone unwilling to make a small sacrifice for Francois.
Then, he approached the brothers and said they could board. The others, he told them, could wait for the next bus! Of course, this didn’t exactly go over well with the other passengers who were in a rush to get to their destinations.
Still, no matter how long it took, the driver made everyone exit the bus and wait for the next. Once the bus was empty, he spoke to the Le Berre brothers and explained why he felt so adamantly about respecting people in wheelchairs.
He explained that any one of those passengers might need to use a wheelchair too someday, and because of that, he felt they should show kindness to those who already use one. Wouldn’t they, he said, like to be treated with respect as well?
The three of them chatted in the empty bus as the driver headed directly to the brothers’ destination. It was a nice change for once to have all that space, and getting into the city quickly had its perks. Francois couldn’t believe it was happening!
Once the ride was over, Francois’ story was shared on Twitter by Accessible Pour Tous, which translates to “accessibility for all.” The group describes itself as a network that aims to defend accessibility rights for the disabled in France.
The responses to the tweet were plentiful. One user wrote, “A superb reaction from this bus driver,” while another added, “Bravo to the driver who emptied his bus to allow the disabled person to get on. I hope the other passengers understood.”
Even though disabled passengers continue to face discrimination, Francois’s story shows that one person’s kind gesture can make a real difference. Hopefully, it will make those passengers think twice about refusing to move for someone in the future.
Sadly, riding public transportation is only the start of the struggles faced by people with disabilities. Lee Bondurant from North Caroline has lived with cerebral palsy his entire life, and although he has accepted it, it’s not always a walk in the park.
Even though he chose to not let his congenital disorder define him, Lee was aware that it played a major role in his life, including at his grocery store job at Krogers. Still, he had his good days and his bad days, and he knew better than to let it get him down.
When he recently chose to spend his birthday with his mother, Linda, at the 42nd St. Oyster Bar in his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, he began having one of his bad days. What he couldn’t have predicted was what would happen next…
Since the disorder caused sufferers’ hands to shake, even simply getting food into their mouths could become a difficult task. However, Lee wasn’t ready to let that take him down – not even when he wanted to go skydiving!
Unfortunately, Lee’s birthday dinner soon transformed into a more complicated task. And even though his mother was there to help, she wasn’t having the easiest time doing so while also trying to eat her own meal.
That’s when their waiter, a college student nicknamed “Five,” noticed the scene beginning to unfold at Lee’s table. His reaction to it was something no one in the restaurant could have predicted…
“He casually came over and asked Lee if he had ever had oysters… Lee told him he had not,” Linda recalled. “So, [Five] asked [if he] could he serve him his first. It was smooth not to embarrass Lee. Just offering [to] share in the experience.”
Linda was simply taken aback by Five’s abundant generosity. “For a total stranger to come up really touches a mother’s heart, especially when your child [has] special needs,” she explained.
Like it was nothing, the busy waiter had stopped what he was doing, grabbed a spoon, and began to help feed Lee the meal he’d been so excited to enjoy all day. It was far from any server’s job description, and Lee’s mother was simply stunned.
Five’s act of kindness certainly wasn’t lost on Lee either. He was well aware that most people would’ve rather moved on instead of helping him out. Clearly, there was something special about this waiter…
Best of all, Five handled it in a way that didn’t humiliate or embarrass Lee! It was the waiter’s overall sense of professionalism that most impressed the birthday boy and his mother during their big celebration.
Lee was accustomed to doing things for himself, and he would normally turn down this kind of assistance. Still, Five’s genuine generosity was difficult to ignore. So, how did others react when they heard about this story?
When they returned home, Linda shared the image of her son and the waiter on her Facebook page. It wasn’t long before people began expressing their respect for what Five had done. Even the local news media became interested!
Lee was sure to let everyone know how thankful he was for Five’s actions. “That was the ultimate kindness he showed me,” he told reporters. “I really appreciate what he did, an act of kindness.”
Five wasn’t at work when reporters arrived to the 42nd St. Oyster Bar, but his boss made it a point to mention that he was proud of his actions. “We’re fortunate to have somebody like him working for us,” manager Ryan Tyson said.
When Five, who doesn’t have a social media profile, eventually learned that his photo with Lee was going viral, he couldn’t believe the outpouring of support. People from all around the world were even writing him letters!
Some of those people have actually offered to help Five in ways he never could’ve anticipated. Of course, being a modest man, he was quick to decline. “I’m going into the gas station and somebody wants to buy me gas, I’m like ‘no!'” he laughed.
Still, Five remained incredibly humble about what he did for Lee that day. “Seafood is best eaten hot, so I didn’t want her food to get cold. I didn’t want his food to get cold,” he said while downplaying his act of compassion. “I just wanted to help a fellow man out.”
Since that birthday dinner, Lee has returned to the 42nd St. Oyster Bar quite a few times to visit his new friend. Every time they saw each other, Lee had an opportunity to let his favorite waiter know just how much he meant to him.
While Five didn’t necessarily anticipate making a lifelong friend when he offered to help Lee eat that night, he seemed to have done just that. It just goes to show how a little kindness can really change someone’s life in more ways than one!