I had known for months that I would be facing this situation. I just hadn’t prepared myself for it. As with many things, I told myself that I would deal with it when the time came. Now, as I was hopping on one leg with arms outstretched to a walker, I found myself wishing that I had undergone some vigorous physical preparation.
I had just undergone a minor surgical procedure to extract a three-inch section of nerve from my left lower leg for biopsy. The medical attention had been superb. Every detail was tended to, all kindnesses compassionately rendered.
Suddenly, my wife and I found ourselves presented to the world with absolute orders that I shouldn’t put any weight whatsoever on my left foot for 72 hours.
“Fine,” I said to myself. “I can handle that.”
Upon leaving the Houston hospital, we thought it best to grab some lunch before hitting the road back to Port Aransas. It was after she opened the car door at the restaurant that reality set-in.
“Why don’t I just grab a take-out?” she suggested.
“That’s all well and good,” I said, “except, there is another reason why I need to go inside.
“Why didn’t you take care of that when you were at the hospital?” she pressed, a bit anxious.
“I didn’t need to then,” I sheepishly replied, though we had only driven a few blocks.
With neither of us thinking of my new situation as being handicapped, she parked across the lot, in lieu of the designated parking space, and ran ahead to hold the restaurant door open for me. What I suddenly saw was what seemed to be a football field length of distance to traverse. I immediately thought of “Peg Leg”, the one-footed heron we’d seen along the ship channel as we walk our dog in the evenings. “How in the world does he hobble on one leg?” I thought.
My entry into the restaurant was no easy effort. I landed in the nearest chair – exhausted!
As my lovely wife took up the task to collect our food and drink orders, woman and her expectant daughter went over to her and offered assistance. The woman said that her daughter was due at any time. However, their concerns weren’t about that (one of the most important occasions of their lives) but were directed toward us.
The previous Sunday, I had preached on Luke’s gospel about the “Good Samaritan,” Luke 10:25-37. As the story goes, a man was stripped and beaten by robbers and left for half dead. A Samaritan came to his aid, where others merely passed by. The Samaritan bound the man’s wounds, took him to an inn and saw to his care. Jesus told this story to person who asked Him what he must do to inherit eternal life.
I have never before had the experience where a gospel account I had just preached suddenly came alive before my very own eyes. These two women, complete strangers, seized the moment to do good while others passed by. They came to our aid, helping my wife with the food and me back into the car. They couldn’t have been more loving and thoughtful. I don’t know if they provided assistance out of a desire for the Kingdom of Heaven.
They did, however, bring a bit of Heaven to us. My wife and I were recipients of the living gospel, which is what God intends. In that moment, we were given the gift of compassionate love. God’s hope is for all of us to love one another in such a way that Heaven embraces our lives. He asks that we take a look around and see with hearts filled with His love. There are a lot of us in the world who have told ourselves that we can handle our situations, but suddenly find that we may not even have one leg to stand on, much less two.
Father Doug Schwert is the vicar at Trinity-by-the- Sea Episcopal Church in Port Aransas.