A good friend of mine from college was with my daughter and I one day last winter when in Chicago for paraplegia therapy. We call that area of Chicago our “hood” and we tool all around it as if we own it.
The friend inquired, “Do you ever pay attention to how many people stare at you two?” I paused, kind of chuckled, and truthfully answered no. I’m not silly. When I am with Alissa, people watch us all the time, but for self-preservation’s sake, most of the time, I can ignore it because it gets really annoying to have people stare at you. I’ve adapted and can easily pretend it’s not happening when it really is happening.
We were at the local Dairy Queen this past Christmas break. The young mother in front of us stood with her daughter. I would guess the young girl was probably close to five years old.
I’ve watched young children watch my daughter these last four and a half years. It’s heartbreaking when many look at her as if she were a monster, something to be feared because she looks so different than anything they’ve seen before. In fact one gutsy young chap just said what he was thinking, “You’re not old! Why are you in a wheelchair?” The majority of the children stare at my daughter in wide-eyed curiosity and then loudly ask their mothers about Alissa. The mothers act all embarrassed and hush their child not wanting to talk about it. The really good mothers do talk about it with their child and actually include us in the conversation so the child can see Alissa truly is a kind, smiling, functioning human.
But the little girl at the Dairy Queen had a different reaction. She was staring at Alissa (OK, that wasn’t so different) and then I reminded Alissa to turn on her wheelchair tire Christmas lights. Alissa complied and the young girl’s face lit up just like the Christmas lights on the wheelchair tires.
She immediately told her mom and then the mom turned around to tell us what we already knew by watching the preschooler’s face, “She thinks your tire lights are pretty.” The little girl stood there just beaming from ear to ear.
We thanked her, chuckled, and I reminded myself, “No wonder God told us to live like little children.”
I’m told the story of a church who was grappling with how to make their auditorium wheelchair accessible. A few vocal folks wanted the wheelchair seating to only be at the back of the church; at the back, because we all know how welcoming it is to always have to sit at the back of the auditorium and not be able to see or hear as well. Those back seats are always the best seats anywhere, for sure. (That’s just dripping with sarcasm, Dear Reader.) And there were a few vocal folks who thought accessible seating should be scattered throughout the auditorium, giving those with wheelchair bound loved ones and their families a few options. The story goes, I’m told, one woman, who was worried accessible seating would not be limited to just the back of the auditorium lamented, “But then it won’t look pretty!”
But then. It won’t. Look. Pretty.
No. No, it probably wouldn’t meet her definition of “pretty” now, would it?
It seems as if every sermon I hear regarding tragedy and heartache, pastors are always imploring me to not be mad at God. I assure you, I’m not mad at God. But in the last four and a half years, I’ve had a whale of a time trying not to be mad at some people in my life. Interestingly enough, churches are where I’ve felt the most hurt, berated, and judged since the wreck. I remind myself quite frequently to not get people confused with God.
You see, what it feels like that lady meant is that your family isn’t “pretty.” We don’t want to be reminded of you. You need to stay at the back. Out of sight . . . so everything can still look exactly the way we want it to look because how it looks is most important. We don’t want it to look different, or marred, or unusual.
I can’t get hung up on her and people like her. But I can smile and thank the Lord for the Dairy Queen little girl. She had the eyes of God. She thought the wheelchair tire lights were pretty. She looked for the positive. And man, isn’t that Jesus? When He walked this earth, the Scripture never talks about Jesus avoiding the marginalized. Jesus brought them to the front . ..as close to Him as possible. Jesus sought them out. Jesus made time for them. Jesus made time for the broken, and hurt. Jesus wanted to be with them. I firmly believe, Jesus thinks the wheelchair tire lights are pretty. And I know for a fact, He loves my beautiful daughter, even more than I possibly ever can. And that’s a “pretty” great truth, Dear Reader!
Until the next Wednesday, the Lord allows.