The Story of Michel

"Before I was just a machine. But now, I am creating new things."

Restoring the unseen beauty of the broken…Recapturing humanity.

Crippled. Barely able to walk. Never educated. Yet, kind-hearted and hard-working.

Michel made me laugh. His diligence in his work made it difficult to interview him. Whenever I paused to write a few notes, he would turn around and start his machine. Although each word came with effort, conversation with Michel was a delight. His eyes twinkled. His responses were witty. His broad crooked smile came quickly. Upon understanding more of his story, I realized ignorance had sentenced him to a life far below his ability, degrading his human dignity

The story behind the twisted body and slurred speech? As a baby of two or three months, his father couldn’t wake Michel up. In a panic, he threw ice-cold water on Michel. From then on, Michel had motor problems. Most likely Michel has a form of cerebral palsy. Not knowing what to do, his parents kept him home, out of the eye of unkind people. And, unknowingly, away from any treatment assistance. When he became a young man, Michel wanted to work. A step toward human dignity. He got hired doing work with gems at a gold shop near his parents’ home. Michel worked really hard. He found he had an eye for detail and could do meticulous work. However, the pay was dehumanizingly low. So, he quit.

However, he wasn’t out of work for long. Michel’s brother made a connection with Arc en Ciel. Arc en Ciel’s mandate is to assist people with developmental difficulties. One of their services is to train and hire disabled people to build aides for their cohorts, like wheelchairs, supportive seating devices, and customized shoes with lifts. Michel faithfully took the bus to Arc en Ciel and eagerly learned what he could. He wanted to be able to make a living. After a while, he began work with the head blacksmith, Omar. Michel’s physical challenges limited what he could do. Nonetheless, Omar took a special interest in Michel. Omar noticed that Michel was precise and meticulous in his work. Soon, when Omar needed something done well, he had Michel do it.

During their ten years of working together, Omar saw up close what a gentle spirit and strong character Michel had. Michel knew his siblings would not be able to take him in when his parents died. Michel bore this sorrow as he had done most in his life and resolved to find an answer. One day a young woman sat next to Michel on the bus. They struck up a conversation. Over a period of three months, his kind and gentle manner freed her to talk. She was a runaway. She had lived her entire life being told there was something bad about her. She’d been a slave in her own parents’ home. Finally, she couldn’t take the beatings any longer and left.
Their relationship blossomed during their bus rides. They recognized there were many challenges to a serious relationship for them. But, that was nothing new. Undaunted, they were ready to take those challenges on. So, they eloped and were married in his church. They now have their own small apartment. That was four years ago. Another step in recapturing human dignity.

Maybe that step is why Michel approached Omar. You see not only had Omar been observing Michel but Michel had also been watching Omar. He saw Omar transform old pieces of ironwork junk into pieces of art for 2B Design, and Michel wanted a chance to participate. Michel’s limited use of his arms meant he had to work differently. But, he had some ideas. Michel joined the team two years ago. Omar told me that he’d never regretted the decision. Michel has become an invaluable part of the team. I asked Michel how the work for 2B Design is and what he liked about it. His answer was telling.
He said, “The work is much harder than what I used to do. However, before I was just a machine. But, now I am creating new things.”

Restoring the unseen beauty of the broken. Recapturing humanity…once just a machine. Now a creator.

Janice Haskell – Dreams Indeed