I have little hands.
I remember my ex-boyfriend marveling over these hands. “They are so small and sweet,” he’d dote. Lifting each one of my fingers with his, he would peer at them as if he’d never seen something so delicate or amazing. In that moment, my hands made me feel beautiful and not small at all – and it’s precisely why I’ve tucked away that memory. It makes me brave. Small hands can do big things. Small can be big.
Last week after the river walk, I met a young man from Guatemala. He walked toward me, and I looked away from him as if I had not noticed – because I hoped he wouldn’t approach me at all. I happened to be sitting alone in a very romantic spot that overlooks the river and the University of Tampa – which, if you’ve not seen it from Curtis Hixon, is majestic. This is the exact spot where Justin and I shared our first kiss, a ledge that does all the work for a man looking to impress a woman. I assumed to know the motive behind his approaching me, but he sat about four feet from me the entire time and didn’t seem disappointed to find out I was married. He talked away (in broken English) for about an hour and a half after the fact. He is 23 and comes from a very religious family – both his dad and brother serving West Palm Beach as pastors. He referred to himself as the “black… black goat?! However you say..” of his family, having a love for partying and a little boy out of wedlock with a woman that never was his girlfriend/spouse.
He is here illegally, working in construction, and has to wait 3 more years to find out whether he is approved for his green card. It was amazing to learn of the process – and I have a deeper compassion toward the immigrant because of it.
I sense that he needed to have this conversation with someone. I shared some of my beliefs and doubts with him, and it was quite lovely to see him look at Jesus with fresh eyes. Right before I left the park, I was showing him photos of my artwork and Justin – and as I was scrolling, he slipped flowers in my hair, and I tucked them behind my ear. I wore them around the city the rest of the night.
Jesus works in ways I just can’t understand.
Goes above and beyond my expectation of Him (which rests embarrassingly low on the scale) and certainly goes above and beyond my own nature/deeds.
Which brings me to this evening. His faithfulness is evident in the time I shared with new friends Kevin and John, in particular. Mike, the blind one (still seeing in left eye, though his glasses are half an inch thick, and he has to hold things right up to the lens to be able to see) wasn’t quite as fascinating – so I won’t mention him much. His father was a colonel in the Korean Army, but he didn’t follow in those footsteps and is currently overweight, seemingly careless, and mooching off of Kevin and John. Though, with due credit – he is about to begin work on his masters in Business Admin and John and Kevin seem to like him just fine.
I went to Starbucks after finally getting over to the Cancer Survivor Plaza to explore. Justin’s mom sent me a “survival” box of my own for the week packed with gift cards and snack bars so I wouldn’t starve while Justin’s away, so I used the Starbucks one on the biggest, sweetest drink they could make – since it was such a treat.
I pulled up and analyzed the crowd through the window, hoping to meet someone. A large man sat with earbuds in and a laptop at one table. Another middle-aged man in the cushy chairs. At the other tables, a young grunge-y looking couple working on a project for school and a young woman waiting for her coffee. I just wasn’t feeling any of them, really. So, I approached the door without any intention of staying past the time it took to consume my drink and play a few rounds of 2048.
As I walked through the door, I saw Kevin in his wheelchair at the ordering counter. I immediately perked up and thought, “That’s who I will talk to.” I walked up behind and was so distracted with my order that I didn’t noticed him roll away to a table with two other men (who weren’t visible to me while sitting in my car, due to where they were sitting). When my drink was up, I sat down at a table – already forgetting about Kevin, zoning in on my game.
I remember looking up to see all three men on their phones and chuckling at the technology umbrella that seems to cover us all with no discrimination – since they all appeared to be older than 45.
When I got up to leave, I had to throw away my empty cup. The trash can was conveniently located next to Kevin (50s?), and without hesitation – I went over to him and said, “Can I ask you a personal question? (With his nodding approval) Why are you in a wheelchair?”
side: I suppose I gained some confidence in this arena when I asked Bill, if you remember – my in-flight-Dad, why his hands shook so badly. Bill had severe tremors that caused his hands to shake noticeably and violently, and I asked because I, too, have some shaking in my hands at times.
Kevin grinned and invited me to sit down. After explaining that a car accident caused his spinal injury in the late ’80s, I shared that Mom is in a wheelchair and explained that I’m always looking for ways to keep her motivated and encouraged. That seemed to spark a light in him.
side: I call this a “lighthouse moment,” because when a shipmaster sees the light from a lighthouse, he begins rowing toward it as it is comforting and instantly familiar during a storm. That’s what happens in conversation when the uncomfortable (my asking about his wheelchair) turns familiar and safe (my experience with Mom, who also uses a wheelchair) through some connection or relation to ones own self (he’s been in a wheelchair for 29 years). Mom helped bridge the gap between us – she was the light from the lighthouse.
He pointed across the table to John (71), and said – “well, ask him. He had a stroke.” I looked over at John for the first time. ” ’92,” he said, and shared the story of his stroke that happened some 24 years and two wives ago. His stroke was on the opposite side of his brain, but his injuries are similar to Mom’s. We discussed that for quite some time.
We all proceeded to go in different directions with the conversation. Retirement, travel, Trump, military, art, Bob Ross. iPhone vs Android.. Yoko Ono and Hillary Clinton having an affair:
“They say she’s bedded more women than Bill!” .. little did I know what motivated her LGBT rights campaign. “My cat looks better than her,” chimed Mike (40s?).
We shared the rest of our conversation over piping hot tea and laughter. They kicked us out due to closing, but we stuck around the parking lot for a few minutes to talk about “next time”.
It was phenomenal, and I’m meeting up with John tomorrow night at Barnes and Noble. Since I now know that you don’t have to have a disability to be a part of the club, I’m going to try to convince my John and Justin to join us sometime.
I am really thankful that God entrusts me with the “weird” – He affords me opportunities that many people, particularly Christians, don’t take for fear of appearing a certain way, or for fear in general. (I mean, imagine a young married woman sitting atop a ledge with a young man who isn’t her husband – most would consider this a recipe for complete disaster, and even I would under most circumstances.) Many of my actions and relationships go against all the laws of our tradition and nature, but… still He provides when I ask.
Bill, with shaky hands. Mary Ann, praying over me in tongues. Lenny, the dirty homeless man that we invited into our home for lunch and a shower. Tim, the hilarious and slightly inebriated Brit that I hit it off with at the Angels game. Louis and Stan, the gay couple that organized and lead our Paint Your Heart Out efforts this weekend. Adam, the professor-turned-friend. Sarah, the body-paint professional. Young Guatemalan, the single-dad with a penchant for hard partying. Kevin, John, Mike – with their varying disabilities. + so many more.
I pray that God is always at the forefront of these moments – and that His will is being done and not mine. There are many moments/opportunities not taken for the Spirit’s pause, many moments where the invisible hedge of protection prevents me from speaking or acting.
And then moments of pure Spirit, pure “go”.
I am little, but I live big and love big. All because the Spirit, whose size isn’t seen with the eyes at all – is so vast and big, Himself.
I wish these moments happened as frequently when Justin is around – but unfortunately, they almost always happen out of necessity when I am alone and not distracted.
It was rather special, anyway.
A nice, big ending to a week to myself.