The past and present wilt—I have fill'd them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.
Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?
Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?
The first time I saw Donnie, I was leaving Bottega Café in Birmingham, and he was literally in my peripheral vision—a shape, a blur that I brought into focus: someone in a wheelchair. And then I walked on.
I can't remember where or when Donnie and I had our first proper conversation. But, as Becky Adams, Donnie's friend and speech and language pathologist says, "Anyone who gets to know Donnie becomes his friend." Knowing Donnie now, I say this must be true.
He's entrepreneurial, cheeky, patient, and funny. Donnie's a perennial presence in Birmingham. He sells candy at various locations in Birmingham, seven days a week, all day long. He's that store that never closes. In one of our first conversations Donnie laid out his vision for being the owner of a huge candy shop one day. The day we filmed he was open for business by the Western Market on Highland Avenue, his usual evening spot.
The day of filming, it was hot, humid, stormy, sunny—one of those wacky, weird summer days that's maybe normal in Alabama. The day started with blistering sun, and then suddenly storm clouds rolled in, and then it was raining cats and dogs, and Ginnard Archibald (a videographer from AL.com helping me shoot that day) and I were running around, trying to manage in the nutso weather, but it was just another day for Donnie. Didn’t seem fazed. "It’s all good," he said.
If you're patient and observe people long enough, you get to see who they are through the kinds of relationships they have with others. When Donnie's working, it's not merely transactional: the sale of candy. There are richer moments of connection. And catching him check out that woman? A different sort of rich and just too funny.
I'm in awe, and sometimes a bit ashamed by how much more capable Donnie is of meeting most others on their terms. He's never saying, "Hey, slow down, you blew past me again, I'm using a computer, and I'm trying to respond to you." He's never once spoken to me about his cerebral palsy and how it shapes his day to day. Unless I inquire. He just asks me how I'm doing and has helped us with this project each time we needed it. It doesn't take a mathematician to tell that Donnie's doing more work in relationships with others than most are in return. Meeting him has taught me things that allow me to try to meet Donnie half way. I still don't do the best job, but of course Donnie is there to make up the difference so seamlessly. Not that he would ever point that out.
by filmmaker Jenn Crandall as told to writer Liz Hildreth