As I said in my last blog entry, sermons this Advent have centered around us (people listening to the sermons) being invited to do various things in a more conscious way (see last blog entry for a few of those). It's a lot about noticing the world around us more consciously, with God in the middle of all of it.....
I went to Target to shop for Christmas presents recently. My daughter had a playdate so she was gone and couldn't ask to go with me. After the past 2 days of a few too many stores, maybe she wouldn't even want to go to Target! That's another story.
When I arrived at Target I parked next to a guy who slowly got out of his car, glanced at me, and got out a walking stick for each arm - not as replacements to his arms (!) but as sticks that he used to help him with balance as he walked. Maybe some would call them canes but they clearly weren't, and they weren't the crutch things you see people use sometimes. They were like the walking sticks I used to use because I hated the thought of a cane in my late 20s (canes are ugly), and the walking stick actually gave more stability than a cane. The man slowly walked into Target as I sat in my car, finishing an email or something on my iPad. I wasn't quite ready to go into Target, but I sat and wondered how he was going to navigate the store with the walking sticks. Then I realized he was probably getting exercise to get into the store and then would use an electric cart if he needed to cover the whole store. Sounds like something I would do (but I had already done my walking exercise for the day).
I finished whatever random thing I was doing on my iPad and got Nemo, my wheelchair, out of the car. Then I did my shopping.
I finished and came back to my car to see his car was still there. I put Nemo away and was leaning on the edge of my van for balance to get in. As I did this, I saw him arrive at his car using an electric cart. He put his things in the car and then, while I wasn't looking, got rid of the electric cart and, as I happened to look back his direction, saw him leaning on his car to get in.
He looked at me and I looked at him. That glance seemed to hold a lot, perhaps only for a certain group of people. The glance said we are through with our shopping, we got what we wanted, and we're ready to go home. But it said something more that is hard to describe - 2 people with seemingly similar disabilities knew the shopping was not as simple as getting what we/I needed and going home. Shopping can involve we/I simply having the energy to go to the store (this is different than the average energy someone without a disability faces when going to a store), an assessment of how much we/I needed to buy, and how much more energy we/I would have past what we needed to buy. I suppose it's somewhat like if you have an infant, you do not get to choose many aspects of shopping - you get to shop as much as the infant allows, which will differ for each shopping trip, depending on the baby - totally out of the parent's control. This is still a bit different - it's about having half, or less, the energy of someone without a disability before even getting to a store, and having to add into the equation things like getting a wheelchair out of a car and back in, as well as the after-shopping events of getting home and having the energy to get in the house without falling, etc.
In the brief glance, we exchanged that we got the things we planned to get in shopping, and were done. It's then that we both probably went home and not on to another store. With a disability, energy is carefully prioritized.
After the glance, I noticed he had his key in his mouth as he leaned against his car, working his way toward the door. Wow - someone else does that too.
There's a wonder of God around us during this season. If we choose to pause even if it's to spend a few minutes with the iPad; if we choose to notice those around us, we may see people so similar to us, at a time when perhaps we may feel like we're the only one. I wasn't the only one shopping that day with a set of limits imposed on me. Look, God would seemingly say, there is someone just like you. Now take up your things and go home, both of you.
We've been invited into the wonder of it all, God at work in the world. Sometimes it is in small moments like these that we find amazing wonder.