Friday, December 12, 2014

without cost you have received

It’s easy to love a deer
But try to care about bugs and scrawny trees
Love the puddle of lukewarm water
From last week’s rain.
-- "Love for Other Things", Tom Hennen

I stepped off the stone steps, onto the sidewalk, then into the stream of traffic. My sneakers were itching for a run, and I was ready to dart through Central Park's paths, feeling the wind fly under my legs and the world move more swiftly beneath my feet. As I stepped off the sidewalk into the crosswalk, I passed a man with a walker.

The walker seemed to be a barely functioning aide to him, as he dragged his feet along underneath him. Uncooperative, his legs wobbled as they managed step after torturous step. I slowed my gazelle's gallop down until I was walking next to him--paused for a moment--my motion suspended as his own movement checked mine.

Excuse me, sir, I asked: Do you need a hand at all?
With what? I mentally responded to myself.
It seems rude to ask someone if they need assistance, because you're poking through their exterior veneer of poise and self-possession. You are saying: I couldn't help but notice you look as if you aren't quite as in control of this situation as you would like to be; I couldn't help but notice that you are vulnerable. Pointing out someone's vulnerability is hardly a kindness, is it?

But perhaps that is because I am too in love with my own veneer of invulnerability, my own desire to appear unbreakable and unstoppable. Perhaps I am just projecting this tendency of mine to discourage any helping hand onto my fellow sisters and brothers all around me.

This man looked up, a smile breaking on his face.
Oh no, he said. I'm fine.
But he smiled. And I smiled.
And so I walked with him across the crosswalk, at his pace. A slow, laborious pace, where each step took effort, and each footfall was a victory. The red hand went up before we were halfway across, and the headlights of the cars lined up on the edge of the crosswalk looked menacing, as they prepared to roar across the white lines demarcating our zone of safety. So I walked with him, honored for a moment to play Simon opposite his Savior.

When we finally landed from our perilous crossing on the concrete port of the sidewalk, I asked him if there was anywhere else I could walk with him.
Oh no, he responded, as he made his way to the library. It's a bit of a struggle, isn't it?  But, you know, life," he said, "is a struggle."

So he walked to the library, and I ran off to the park.
And I thought of how very important it is to stop and walk with someone who is walking at a slower pace. Because when I grow up, and my feet can no longer leap across central park hills and quickly dodge yellow taxis, I hope that someone will walk with me, as I drag my uncooperative limbs to the library, and perhaps I can share with them a line of wisdom that my years of living has taught me. And maybe they will walk away, as I did, with the witness of my struggle impressed in their minds, and the strength of my spirit instructing their hearts.

So thank God for men with walkers, whose hurting feet and steady pace teaches us novices how to walk with the Lord.

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