We measure our lives in decades, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds. We live our lives through our experiences. It is the people and the places that impact us for better or for worse that make us who we are.
It is my contention that every know-it-all teenage boy should work at Shriner’s Hospital. That was my summer job in high school and college. I proudly claim to have washed more diapers than most mothers. Of course, I was washing hundreds at a time in industrial size washers (without spin cycles - there was another machine for that) and dryers. Whether that claim is true or not, I really have no idea.
The work that I did from cleaning grills to mopping floors did not impact me in any significant way. It was the people who did that.
While helping in the Orthotics Department where the braces are made, I met for a very brief time a young girl. She had an inoperable brain tumor and was, by this time, blind. She wanted to see - by feel - the face of each of the people trying to help. To this day, whenever I think of her, I can feel her fingers flitting like butterflies on my face.
This place became such a part of me that I can remember sitting in my girlfriend’s house watching her niece and nephew tear about the house. For some time, I kept thinking “What’s wrong with these kids?” Until it dawned on me that they were perfectly normal. It was my world where bones were crooked and weak, where limbs were missing or malformed, where spinning a wheelchair in impossible arcs was not. It was extraordinary.
It is also where I learned that I was a wimp. Physical therapy was essential if any of these children were to walk. When the Therapist walked on the floor, the crying started because pain, however important and essential the therapy, was coming with her. I would leave the floor before she got there. I’m not tough enough to do that.
From children devastated by a genetic quirk to a child run over by a lawn mower, each smiling (somehow laughing) face hammered my soul. Why, O Lord, must the innocent suffer?
Through high school and college I struggled with that question. I was ready to declare myself an agnostic and give up trying to understand. And then, while bumbling my way through scripture, I came upon John 21:20 - 23. Peter is apparently jealous of the possibility that John would live until Christ’s return. Jesus tells him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!”
It was as if Christ were saying to me, “Boy, do your job. I’ll take care of the rest.” It may not be profound and would certainly not satisfy many, yet for me it settled the question.
Do my job.