He sat in his wheelchair in the corner of the church where there were no pews. I had never noticed the man before. As far as I could tell, he was by himself. He must, I thought, have a strong devotion to the Lord to haul himself into church on a blustery Maundy Thursday. He seemed surprised when I said hello after the service. Perhaps few people ever talked to him. I saw him again at successive services, always alone.
Why hadn’t I noticed him before? Perhaps because I didn’t usually sit up front. After my foot surgery, however, it was the only place that could accommodate a knee walker. Having only one working leg, by the way, is no fun. Every night for several weeks after the surgery, I shut the blinds on the stairwell so my neighbors wouldn’t be exposed to the spectacle of my crawling like an oversize 10-month-old up the stairs.
Speaking of spectacles, I created one when I invited my elderly mother to an Easter buffet shortly after my surgery. What was I thinking? I wondered, as the two of us bumped along the restaurant’s tiny aisles on our respective walkers. Since my mother couldn’t handle both a walker and a plate of food, I made several wheeled trips to the buffet table on her behalf, none of which were graceful and all of which were noticed by fellow diners, who gave me looks that seemed to say, “What are you doing here, anyway?”
No one was unkind. It’s just that, like most of us, they didn’t seem to tolerate differences that well. Like them, we may feel uncomfortable, uncertain how to respond—if we even allow ourselves to notice those who are unlike us, that is. Like the man at church whom I had never noticed before. I hope in the coming weeks to get to know him a little—or at least to greet him whenever I see him. Lord, help me to see him.