For Michelle Basista, a charter member in 1999 of the Millvale-based Change A Heart Franciscan Volunteer Program, the aha moment of her 11-month commitment to serving others came when a homeless man she was taking to see a doctor told her with shame in his eyes, “You have to carry my leg.”
“I hesitated — I would like to think for not very long — because I didn’t want to do it,” she recalled. “He was an amputee, about halfway up his thigh. He had lost a lot of weight, and the prosthesis didn’t fit him anymore. He ambulated with crutches. The leg was dirty, and it smelled bad, and it was big. I couldn’t carry it with just one hand or even both hands. I had to embrace the leg.”
It was that moment when something magical began to happen for the young, well-educated, middle-class woman helping the older gentleman, who had a long history of drug and alcohol problems.
“I’m sitting next to this guy and we’re talking. Talking became laughing and joking, and we just got to know each other, and I no longer hesitated. I no longer saw the differences. I just saw that we were the same. We were both children of God.”