April 7, 2013
I make no promises regarding this blog. As a reader you may invest attention and careful thinking, then, at the end, conclude that you have had a poor return on your investment. Full disclosure: possibly elusive personal significance.
While I was living my adventure at the rehab center, inspectors came to examine the facility and, presumably, insure a proper level of care for residents.
Their visit told a story, but the story was difficult to hear while it was being lived out. Beginning, middle and ending were oddly muddled and fragmented. Important segments of the story were played behind the scenes of the daily communal life of residents.
Nevertheless, residents sensed that something important we could not see was happening around us. We were uneasy at levels we could not explain even to ourselves. The staff too was uneasy. We sensed as well their tension with us and with each other. Without words we recognized the scent of risk, a low level of danger in the air.
The first part of the story that I heard came in a carefully low-key announcement by the young woman who came to help me dress. “Inspectors are here today,” she said quietly, “and will be here through Friday. This is just a routine visit. There is nothing wrong. It will not change your day.”
In retrospect I think many residents unconsciously translated the official notice into a warning. I think I heard: “Strangers are coming. Powerful outsiders are here among us. Be alert.”
I watched and listened. Already my day was changed.
My first glimpse of the strangers occurred shortly before lunch. There were three of them, two men and a woman. They entered the unit from the administrative wing carrying thick folders, looking officially impeccable in their dark business suits. As I watched, they walked briskly three abreast down the busy hallway between the therapy room and the dining room. They were laughing and talking to each other, sharing without thought the privileged world of the easily ambulatory, confident of their right to the space they commanded.
All of us scattered—slowly, but we scattered. Wheelchairs moved back against the walls; walkers moved back into open doorways, those of us with canes moved with careful haste to the side.
After they had walked by, there was an odd utterly quiet moment when in the wake of their passing some wordless intensity seemed to fill the very air.
The strangers had arrived and showed us their lordly wholeness. And we understood. Those of us who made our way slowly, haltingly, with great effort, we were called to make space for them.
Learning with you in life's journey the importance of keeping a generous space for those who walk slowly. May my passing, by God’s grace, leave a gentle footprint behind.
See you next week.