The following is a story, a story inspired in part by actual events and by a conversation held after the fact. It is inspired, not only by recent events, but by things that have happened in the past. I hope that new perspective will be brought, a new way of thinking about how we react to the pain, or inconvenience in our lives.
There she was again, this small, crooked, woman. She was walking on a crowded sidewalk, trying hard not to trip anyone with her body’s erratic movements. No one would meet her eyes. Embarrassment, pity, a complete lack of care…I am not sure what the motivation.
Her small frame was a an artwork of curves and bends. She fought the jerky movements that she could not control. The walking sticks there for stability, but they could quickly become an unwilling weapon, if her body refused to be commanded. She was carrying a bag of groceries, looped over her crooked wrist. Walking to and from the store or bus stop her only option, as she would never be able to get behind the wheel of a car.
I wondered, as I watched her, if there had ever been a time when her body didn’t fight against her. The common phrase I heard her mutter was, “Excuse me, I’m sorry.”
The glares of the sidewalk mates. Mothers with young children who tried to hush their child’s questions, their comments, “What’s wrong with her mommy?” “Why is she crooked?” “Why does her body move like that?” Business men, too busy on their “smart” phones to notice her struggling to make way for them as they rushed by, eyes unseeing. Fierce young women, so many ambitions running through their minds, too focused inward, to see that they had knocked her off-balance in their rush to get by.
Struggle, I am sure that it is something that she is accustomed to, something that has become a strengthener. What must it be like to live alone, trying to command her body to do what she must each day, just to survive? Her mother and daddy are both gone, she was an only child, a child that was cherished, waited for…but now as she enters her 40′s, she is alone, saying goodbye to them both with-in a year. Facing each days tasks with a great strength, knowing that if it’s going to get done, she must do it. Knowing that someday, maybe soon, she will be unable to live with independence, unable to avoid a wheel chair.
Each day she awakens, stiff, taking the time to stretch the atrophied muscles as much as she can, putting the thick lens glasses upon her face to look around her little apartment. She puts water on for tea, bread in the toaster. Routine is what she depends on each day. Everything takes her longer. The more simple she makes her tasks, the better. It’s getting worse all the time, unable to command her body to do a task without the rebellion that her muscles cause. Carefully she partakes of her small breakfast and continues with her morning ablutions. There is a bus to catch.
Soon she will make the laborious journey to the bus stop up the block, the short hill is steep, she makes sure to have plenty of time to get to her stop. The bus stop is crowded, people waiting for a bus, not her own, but the bus before it. All familiar faces to her, but none of them know her by name, none of them will meet her eyes. If only they would take a moment, talk to her, they would find a strong, compassionate, woman…
As she makes her way to the office where she works, there are many friendly faces. She is known by all who work in the complex. She is the one who brings their mail each day. She is the one who comes when needed, to deliver the packages or documents to other departments. At lunch she never has to worry about getting her hot plate to the cafeteria table. No, the friendly staff all know when she will be there and what she likes to eat, her hot plate is ready to go to her table when they see her coming through the door.
Work is the place that she feels the most human, the most appreciated, the most cared for. She works hard and laughs often. At the end of the day, the complex guard gives her a ride to her bus stop in the little golf cart used for patrol. She is grateful at the end of a busy day to have a ride up the long hill.
She will make her way home, feed the cat and herself, straighten up for the next day, and lay out what she needs. There is a lot of planning necessary to make each morning flow smoothly.
She never complains to anyone about how her body aches, or how long it takes to complete a task. She is grateful for the life God has given her. Grateful that she has seen the world and many of the things it holds. She is grateful for the friends from work, the church family that help her when she needs it. She is even thankful for the disease that causes her struggle and slows her down, she knows it could always be worse, there is always someone who’s struggle is harder. She is fortunate, she is blessed.