Sideways

I attended a daily Mass at the local Catholic Church yesterday and soon after the ceremony had begun the side door opened and a young woman pushing a wheel chair came through the door. She rolled the wheelchair to the end of the row right before me and knelt down.

In the chair was a young boy, perhaps about 11, was an alert handsome face, clear skin and eyes framed by thick lashes, and short dark hair. His young body was like a wash cloth, twisted, wrung out and left to dry in this chair. His right leg was bent and folded beneath him; his left arm bent and behind his back; his back hunched forward. His head was always looking over the left shoulder, his whole trunk turning to bring something into his range of view. He looked as if he was in a permanent yoga pose that saw the world sideways.

His body was in frequent movement, turning this way and that, the awkward left arm brought sometimes to the front of his body only to return behind his back within a moment. The right leg was sometimes sat on and at other times brought forward and crossed over the left. From his gnomish twisted position he looked out over the church parishioners, smiled and gave an abbreviated wave to some. His face did not betray any pain but was quite peaceful and interested in his surroundings.

I watched him throughout the Mass and offered up my prayers for him; may he have strength, may he have peace, may he be blessed, may he be loved. I asked God to give him any small blessing that may have been intended for me that day. I thought about this boy’s life, his past and future. I did not question that all was as it was supposed to be for this was not an intellectual situation but an emotional one. Was this young boy’s purpose to offer others an opportunity to feel compassion? Was he here to teach humility? Gratitude?  Patience?

I considered my own physical limitations and pains which amounted to nothing in comparison to his. In addition, I had had many, many years of good health and mobility and it would, to my mind, be selfish to ask for more when others like this young boy had had so little. But who knew what lie in his heart. Perhaps this physical impairment had loosened the strings which held the heart and mind to this reality and perhaps he soared to heights I had only read about. His clear eyes hinted at a state I rarely attained.

As I rose from my seat to leave, he noticed my movement and edged his wheelchair slightly forward so that I could easily pass behind him. Ever alert, ever willing, I thought, as I opened the heavy wooden door and passed from the dim, cavernous interior to the bright light of a September day. Tears slipped down my cheeks as I made my slow way to the car and I blessed the boy for being present to me

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