It was not a boxing dinner, but a dinner at a college, and a guy who'd written a book set in boxing was the guest of honor, and later in the evening he would speak.
The guy is a terrific writer and he has the timing a good story-teller needs. Boxing stories are as good as any and better than most, so it was fine to be seated beside him at the dinner.
But the guy who'd written the book set in boxing was not the most compelling character at the table. That was the young woman in the wheelchair, and the wheelchair was the least of her distinctions. She wasn't eating, because of the tube in her throat, which was connected to some apparatus below the table. The tube also prevented her from speaking.
But nothing prevented her from listening, and nothing had prevented her from being at the dinner, which was unusual, because her father, who took care of her, worked long hours, and getting her into the chair, and then out of the chair and into the car, and then into the chair again was long, hard work. The guy teaching the class in which the young woman was enrolled told me that she'd never attended the class; she'd submitted her writing from a computer from home. This teacher had offered his place at the table to his student and her father, and they had accepted the invitation because this was one of the nights the young woman's father didn't have to work, so there was time to get her into the car and all the rest. And as it turned out, there had been room at the table for the teacher, too. He seemed grateful for the opportunity to meet his student.
So the guy who'd written the ambitious and admirable book set in boxing told some good stories about courage and perseverance and toughness, and everybody at the table nodded appreciatively, except the young woman across the table from the writer, because she had that tube in her throat. A lot of stories about the courage and perseverance and toughness of boxers have been written by some fine writers, not just the one I was sitting next to that night, but there have not been so many stories about the courage and perseverance and toughness of someone like the young woman who sat across from the writer that night, and whose triumph was making it to the table, even though she couldn't eat, let alone tell a story, at that dinner that was not a boxing dinner.
This program aired on December 17, 2005. The audio for this program is not available.