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Mohammad to the Doctor’s Office

by Robert Nelis



            I was raised in Hinsdale, one of the wealthiest suburbs in the Chicago area. Its wage earners occupied top corporate executive seats and professionals like doctors and lawyers served only the highest paying clients. Everyone assumed that the village’s children would all follow suit. However, I and a few of my peers, stepped out of line when we accepted the hippie movement’s call to social service. I chose low paying local government service.

            A drawback exists in local government service, it not only offers low salaries but, for several top officials, job security also does not exist. Each election can and does institute turnovers.  My income took a dramatic hit when following an election, the newly elected board fired me and three other department heads.  

            My wife and I covered the income loss by taking part time jobs. She as a GED teacher at Truman College and me as a construction crew helper. I worked three days a week and babysat for our six-month-old daughter on the two days my wife worked.

            Thus, in mid-December I was babysitting when Lisa woke and felt a little warm. By 11:00 AM she felt hot. I took her temperature in the usual unpleasant way and found a 102-degree fever. I called my wife and she told me to call the doctor. His office instructed me to immediately bring heir in.   

            My wife took our only car to teach and I did not have any cash. It seems odd but when you have very little money, one survival method is not to carry cash because it seems to just slip away. Logan Square did not have a bank; my closest source of cash was a Jewel two miles distance. So, with nothing in my wallet, I performed one of those desperate pocket, couch, and dresser top searches and assembled $1.50, just enough to cover bus fare.     

            I dressed Lisa in her winter clothes but decided to wrap her in a blanket to provide extra protection from the 20-degree temperature and snow flurries.

            As I stood on the corner waiting for the bus, the whole situation hit me.  I did not have enough money to grab a cab to take my sick child to the doctor. I felt very low because poverty simply did not happen to a Hinsdale offspring.  

            So, standing in the cold and snow looking down the street for the bus, my face broadcasted worry and desperation. A cab pulled up to the bus stop and the driver lowered the passenger window. “Hey, do you need a ride?”

            “Yes, thanks for asking. But I cannot afford a ride with you.”

            “Where are you going with that child all wrapped up?”

            “Over near Children’s Memorial Hospital.”

            “Why are you going there?”

            “Look mister thanks for asking, but I cannot afford to take your cab to the child’s doctor’s office. She is sick.”

            He sat for a moment, then said, “I’m going that way anyway, get in. No cost.” With a warm simile, he waved at me to get in.

            When about half way, my Hinsdale sense began to bother me.  It seemed impossible to take a free ride because I was broke. So, I offered, “Listen, I only have bus fare.  I can give you $1.50 and if you give me your address, I’ll send you a check.”

            He stopped at the next red light, put his arm over the passenger seat, turned to me and said, “God would want me to take a sick child to the doctor. It is the right thing to do.”  He turned back and started driving again.

            When we arrived at the doctor’s office I tried to see his name as I awkwardly slid out of the seat with my Lisa bundle. Chicago required cab drivers to post their license on the dashboard, but such notices were notoriously badly typed.  I could only see his first name.

            It was Mohammad.

            Now, if I hear a jerk make negative comments about Muslims, I always recall that on a snowy cold day when I did not have the money to take my sick daughter to the doctor, a man gave me a free ride and his name was Mohammed.

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