I know God spends a lot of his time laughing at me. Maybe with you He is all serious business. Sometimes He is that way with me. Yet a lot of things God has done in my life I am convinced are all about the shock value.
As this blog is about life change I need to spend some time speaking about one of the biggest life changes I have been through, God’s decision to have me work with disabled. I probably never would have chosen this path on my own.To be honest most things I have done would not have been by my choice. If left to my own devices my mantra in all of life would have been “Manana, manana!”
God knows this about me. So When He wants me to do something He usually just plunges me headlong into whatever it is He has planned. My involvements tend to come at me in a rush that either produces the effect of myriads of angels singing over my life or the fearful feeling one has just before the car plunges headlong over a cliff into the North Sea. While the former is far more desirable initially, the latter is usually a lot more hysterical, makes for better stories, and ends up teaching me a whole lot more about me.
I will never forget the first time I was invited to Tina’s house for dinner as her “boyfriend”. Dale (now my mother-in-law) was caring, at the time, for a lady who was mentally disabled. “Corrina” was easily six feet tall and loved to scream when she was excited. I had met her only a few times in the course of church events and I have to admit she scared me.
I arrived at the house just as Dale was getting ready to serve up dinner. I was directed to a seat in the corner by a window just behind the table. Tina and I were talking with Doug (now my father-in-law) when Corrina came in.
She stopped in the center of the floor and shrieked “My boyfriend!”
She launched herself across the room. Landing squarely in my lap she wrapped her arms around me and squeezed tight while Tina’s whole family stood by in shocked silence. That was my initiation into the world of the disabled.
A few years later Tina and I were married with children. We had just moved into an apartment in the shadow of Holy Rosary church in Gardner. We only ever got to know the landlady and one neighbor at the place. Actually “Lucy” was the original owner of the building. She had worked a deal with the new owner’s that she would be able to stay in her apartment rent free after the sale.
Lucy had no one that Tina and I knew of. She had the early signs of dementia.
Often we would come home from church to find Lucy’s car parked in the middle of the street. Sometimes she would come to our door and ask for milk money. She always wore mismatched clothes and forgot to rub the rouge into her cheeks. Her I was not afraid of. I felt sorry for her.
One day Tina and I came home to find our front door wide open. Our landlord’s were in our kitchen washing our dishes. The kitchen and bathroom floors were soaked with water.
“We’re so sorry.” Our land-lady explained. “Lucy turned on her washing machine and couldn’t figure out how to shut it off. When it flooded she just went shopping.”
In retrospect I have learned we often fear the wrong thing. Lucy caused me much more trouble than Corrina ever did.
But that is not the real point here.
My goal in speaking of our work with the disabled is to show the incredible rewards to be found in this labor, to make you chuckle a little, and to give some practical methods of helping folks with disabilities.
I remember once when the kids were little Tina and I were caring for one of our friends for the weekend.
The kids had a Saturday bowling league which it was my responsibility to pick them up from. Jim and I had gone to pick them up together. When we got to the lane-ways we found we were a bit early. So I bought Jim a soda and we sat at the back tables waiting.
One of the regulars at the bowling alley recognized me as a bowling father and struck up a conversation with me. He and I only knew each other casually. So I did not introduce Jim. That was a mistake I was soon to learn.
Jim is extremely friendly. He has no fear. He truly loves people and sees everything in the light of a pure innocence. It is a trait of his I wish I possessed.
Anyway the time came for me to cash out the kids. So I bid the man good-bye and told Jim to finish his soda while I went to pay. I turned back to check on Jim while I was paying and noted that he had gotten up and was over talking to this man I barely knew.
Time for another conversation on “stranger-danger” I muttered to myself.
So on the way out I asked. “Now Jim did you know that man you were talking to?”
“No” He admitted sheepishly.
“Are you supposed to talk to people you don’t know?” I asked leading the conversation to my desired end.
“No but I’ll know him better on Monday.” Jim retorted.
My heart missed a beat as I asked. “Why will you know him better on Monday?”
Jim smiled broadly “Because I invited him to your house for dinner!”
The line “better on Monday” has stuck with me over the years. I know its a little out of context but I work with many for whom Monday is almost surely never better than the day before. Many of my friends are playing a waiting game and tomorrow promises only to be one day closer to the next big physical or mental break down. Yet I have found in so many of them (including Jim) a hope and expectancy that the future is bright not just OK.
Monday is most certainly not my favorite day of the week though I am not sure why. The trials I face are nothing compared to Jim’s and yet somehow he is the one who can say “better on Monday.”
Maybe that should change.