I watched the kids play at recess today. I was waiting to pick up my daughter for a dentist appointment, and I was a few minutes early. So I just sat and watched. I noticed a girl, off to the side, standing by the corner of the building, all by herself. Around the corner, other kids were laughing, playing, kicking/throwing balls, wrestling, goofing around. She just stood there, looking at her feet. Playing with the string on her hoodie. Every once in a while she would peer around the corner at the other kids, and then she would quickly duck back, look away, back down to her feet. The bell rang. She waited until all the other kids had left, before slowly making her way toward the door. She never stopped looking at her shoes. It was an utterly ordinary scene. And it broke my heart.
I was at the hospital today. I walked past a room and I saw a guy—mid 50’s maybe?—sitting in his wheelchair in a doorway. He had no shirt on. He had an enormous belly and chest, covered in tattoos and hair. A tough guy at one point, no doubt. But today he just looked sad and lonely. Another man walked past, roughly the same age, trudging along behind his IV pole, back of his gown wide open for all to see. Dignity a distant memory. A few doors down, the roommate of the man I was visiting stared vacantly into space. He was almost catatonic. Half an hour later, when I left, he hadn’t moved. I tried to smile at him but he just looked past me. He looked utterly bewildered and defeated. And alone. So very alone. More utterly ordinary scenes. And they broke my heart.
I thought of the many and varied ways that life finds to be unkind. That we find to be unkind.
And then I prayed a few desperate prayers…
Please God, don’t let this be the girl that I read about a few years from now… the one who finally had enough of the unkindness… the one who finally decided that this world wasn’t worth the trouble…
Please God, don’t let the weariness, the indignity, the soul-crushing loneliness of this broken world of sickness and disease defeat these, your children.
Please God, you know how goddamned unkind this world can be to so many people in so many places in so many ways… You know how so many people are starving for just a scrap of empathy, a touch of grace, the smallest shred of kindness.
Please dear God, haunt our steps. Don’t let us be so stingy with these simple gifts that were made to be fall like rain on cracked and thirsty ground.
I’m listening to Josh Garrels’ hauntingly beautiful song, “Ulysses” as I write today. I doubt the song was written with anything like the themes I’m thinking about today in mind. But this afternoon I can’t help but listen and long through the ears of a lonely little girl playing with the string on her hoodie and a few broken down men staring into space in hospital hallway…
I’m holding on to the hope that one day this could be made right
I’ve been shipwrecked, and left for dead, and I have seen the darkest sights
Everyone I’ve loved seems like a stranger in the night
But oh my heart still burns, tells me to return, and search the fading light
I’m sailing home to you I won’t be long
By the light of moon I will press on…