As some of you know, my wife is heavily involved with an outreach called “Serving Meals Ministry.” They provide free meals to needy families, and she and I help out with the local chapter, which serves Fort Mill’s Riverview community.
Although she attends most of the time, occasionally I have the chance to serve, and there is always some sort of life changing moment. This time was no different.
Saturday. Overcast. Rain in the forecast, so we had to hustle to beat the weather. The process is fairly standard: knock on a door, wait for an answer, smile, tell the person the name and why we are there…if they want a hot meal, wonderful. If not, offer to pray for them either on the spot or at a later time. Repeat 50 times.
Just as I was content in delivering another meal, I overheard bits and pieces of a conversation between one of our volunteers and a resident. “Doctor gave him a 50/50 chance to live…He has been in and out of the hospital…I take it one day at a time…”
Forgive me for being jaded, but these stories are so plentiful in this neighborhood that one bleeds into another and it is hard to keep them straight. Because of that, I wasn’t really listening. I know, I sound horrible, but I am just being honest.
The lady looked tired, worn down, and defeated. Her son had moved in with her to assist while her husband was waiting to die. At least I assumed it was her husband, until I heard “my husband died <x> years ago.” It was not her husband.
Then, she went inside her house and emerged carrying an embroidered folder. She opened it and said “Did I show you my baby’s senior picture?” She opened the folder and showed us her 19 year old son, who is the person with pneumonia in both lungs sitting in a hospital bed hoping that his “coin toss” comes up heads so that he can live another day. Wow.
Stop reading for a moment. What image is in your head as to how this kid looks in the picture?
Before I glanced over, I pictured a normal looking high school kid. Nice looking, clean cut, brown hair, high sideburns, white teeth showing a great smile.
It was nothing like that. Wheelchair with a headrest. The kid was not even looking at the camera, but instead was glaring off into space in an almost vegetable state. His mouth was open, and although I didn’t see drool in the picture, I would bet that the photographer removed it via Photoshop to save some of the kid’s dignity. The boy had cerebral palsy.
I felt sick to my stomach. All I wanted to do was to give this lady her meal so that I could move on to the next house. Selfishly, I wanted to finish early so that I could go home, shower, and go out to eat. Heaven forbid I be bothered with someone else’s problems. After seeing the picture, that lump that appears in your throat before you cry came to life. Then, she said the following:
“He is my miracle baby. Born at 1 pound, 12 ounces, he has fought every day of his life. Look how handsome he is. Isn’t he beautiful?”
I can be very shallow and vain, so if this next part offends you, I am sorry in advance. The boy was handsome, but his face was disfigured and weary. Clearly this disease had worked him over and because of that, he was a zip code away from “handsome.” But, of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in this case, the beholder was his mother. To her, he was perfect.
I know how I love my own children, but they are relatively normal. Somehow, it seems that if I had a special needs child, I would love him even more. Surely that is not the case, but inside the trainwreck that is my brain, it seems that way. I cannot fathom the love she must have for her son. How many times has she wiped away his tears after some punk kid at school made fun of him? How many times has she had to explain to him that he can’t play athletics because he is “special?” Wonder how she told him that his father had passed away, or that he was alive only due to the hand of God? Despite me being dramatic, I doubt these examples come close to what she has been through as a mother to this child.
So, to her question of “isn’t he beautiful,” I felt like saying “ma’am, you are the one who is beautiful.”
What a Godly example she is. She sees her son as perfect, handsome, and beautiful even though the world sees him as handicapped and pitiful.
That must be how God sees us – beautiful and perfect, while we see ourselves as failures in his eyes.