My hand Needs Your Foot: Old First E-pistle 04.10.15

Having a visible injury has been eye-opening.

First, it has surprised me how easily people seem to notice it, and how comfortable they are to stare — particularly strangers on the street — without so much as the cover of pretending some expression of concern!

Second — and fairly unrelated and independent of the first revelation — is a new sense of vulnerability I am experiencing. As a “city person” my whole adult life, I don’t think I’m careless or unaware when I’m out and about. But I have never experienced myself feeling reticent either.

It’s not that I’m now afraid to be out after dark! But I do have a new (for me) sense of danger. Perhaps it’s the combination of my white hair and a bandaged hand in a splint, but I catch myself thinking nowadays “If I were looking for someone on the street to mug…” (Maybe this relates too: when I see cyclists ride by next to cars, the bikers all of a sudden appear very vulnerable…)

Third, I am continually struck by what I can do and can’t do. And how easily that upsets the equilibrium of how I usually see myself.

A friend cut up my meat at dinner one night. I have had to ask for help getting my top shirt button, and even my pants, closed. I’ve asked bank tellers to fill out deposit slips for me, and strangers on the street to open juice bottles for me.

I think this is somehow spiritually significant. Maybe this is sort of a pathetic confession, or an important lampooning of my illusions? …But finding myself incapable in so many daily tasks — and having to ask the help of others — has stretched me.

Clearly “independence” is a value we Americans often share and prize. Actually, it’s a shame how often we fail to ask for help. We miss resources we need that others are willing to share. As well, in a very real sense, we miss the people who offer to help.

Without much choice, I’ve been forced to tackle my bad habit of feigned self-reliance. And I’m not even beating myself up too much over how hard facing it is: I find myself able to be sympathetic to myself — it makes sense to me: after the accident, wanting my life to be as much like “normal” as possible.

I have also been impressed by how much longer it takes me to do anything and everything one-handed. For instance, typing without being able to use the Qwerty keyboard strokes means that composing takes as much as twice as long, and I’m more apt to make “really interesting” — sometimes apparently meaningful — typo.s (“overlooked” came out as “oy-looked” in my Easter sermon text!). And just getting out of the house in the morning! There’s an important lesson for me: how different people doing the same work (at similar quality) can take varying amounts of time.

Which is all to say that with my hand out of commission, I have a new appreciation for one of Paul’s commissionings, his metaphor of the church as one body with many members. In particular, my temporary challenge is helping me with some of my longer-term spiritual challenges:

~ “I am not compete, and that’s not my fault; in fact, it’s ok because the greater community can provide and share with me what I am missing.”

~ “Asking for help may well be harder than offering it — and just as rewarding… perhaps because it’s more humbling?”

~ “There really cannot be any ranking or hierarchy of capacities and deficits in the church… and the right gift and who offers it is often a surprise (because God is the source of the gifts and we are at best their conduits).”

May you likewise find some silver-linings in the dips in your road and even your disabilities…

See you in church,

Michael