Convalescence Coalescence

FREEDOM!!!

Disclaimer: Some readers may find today’s post slightly insensitive and/or politically incorrect. Please consult your doctor before reading if you are pregnant, nursing, take heart medication, or in general just have a weak countenance.

When I was in high school, my youth group occasionally served with a convalescent ministry. Basically, we would visit assisted living facilities and meet with the residents. We might sing songs or help serve lunch or something, but mostly, we were there to bring the warmth and kindness of genuine human interaction to those that many in society are comfortable to ignore because they’re kept away in forgotten places.

Believe it or not, these visits were always events of hijinks and hilarity; mischief and mayhem; shenanigans and silliness. Something interesting was always bound to happen.

On one such particular occasion, a friend and I were walking down one of the hallways to find someone to visit with when we heard a call from one of the rooms. A crispy voice implored us to come inside. We turned and looked inside a room with the door wide open to find a petite, elderly woman sitting in a chair. She reached out one feeble hand and with one wrinkled index finger curling in and out, she beckoned us to come inside.

As she was summoning us, she said with a soft, crackled tone, “Come here young man. Come closer. Closer.”

We obeyed. “Yes ma’am, how are you today? Can we help you with anything?”

With sharp, piercing eyes and firm, raspy voice, “Do either of you boys have a pocketknife to cut me out of this chair? I gotta use the bathroom.”

It was then that we realized that she was harnessed into the chair with straps across her lap and torso. I stuttered a reply, “Umm, no ma’am, I’m sorry, but I don’t have a pocketknife. Would you like me to go get a nurse to help…?”

“No!” she exclaimed, quickly cutting me off. “No, no, no. No need for that. Just come here closer. Closer. See if you can loosen these straps for me.”

I cannot justly describe this scenario in words. But the combination of her calculated mannerisms, her menacing tone, and her unblinking stare of death had us terrified. The entire time she smacked her lips as if she was about to savor more than just the sweet taste of freedom from her shackles. Was this a Hansel and Gretel situation? Which was I—Hansel or Gretel?

I can still hear those smacking lips. In my nightmares.

As we spoke, we inched our way methodically backwards. “Sorry ma’am. I think we should get some help…” As soon as we were out of the doorway, we sped down the corridor to find a staff person. When we recounted our encounter with a nurse she coolly stated, “Oh yes, her, don’t worry about her. She’s always trying to escape.”

As odd and as frightening as this incident was, I’ve also found myself inspired by this woman who’s name I never caught. She lived in the moment. She lived with purpose and intention. She had a plan and goal. Many of us are content to live in our self-made prisons and self-locked chains. We’re okay to just let life happen to us and never take charge. We let circumstances define us, sitting in the cuckoo’s nest and never taking a chance to fly. We’re spoon-fed the soylent green of the media. We’re too consumed by our past and too preoccupied with our future that we never truly live in the present. Be thankful for your life. Be thankful for today and the time you have on this cherished earth.

As this elderly woman’s words have lingered over—haunted me—I am motivated to strive to live everyday full and free. Also, if I ever need to live in a nursing home, I’ll be sure to stow away a pocketknife just in case.

“All good things are wild and free.” – Henry David Thoreau

Slippery Slope

We took the kids to this natural spring swimming area located in a national park. Overall, it was delightful experience. But there’s a couple of things about these parks that aren’t ideal. Specifically, I’m talking the slick algae and moss growing on all the rocks and steps and ladders. I always feel like I’m gonna slip and bust my head open while trying to get in the water.

But the real kicker is this: the park had installed these railings around the entire swimming area. They looked as if they would function both as safety rails (to prevent people from accidently falling in the water) and as hand rails (to help people safely enter and exit the water).

But if you thought that these rails were for helping people to not slide and tumble while getting in and out of the pool, then you would be so very wrong, and the livid lifeguards perched atop their judgment nests would surely let you know of your transgressions with the blowing of trumpets blasting forth from the clouds and with cups of wrath flooded out onto the earth as fire and brimstone from the grave.

“Stay off the rails!!!”

The shouts of condemnation would pierce into a person’s soul and then some would inevitably fall like lemmings to their demise (actually, the lemmings jumping off cliffs thing is a total myth).

One friendlier lifeguard approached us and said, “Hey guys, you can climb and jump off the rocks all you want, but you’ve got to stay off the rails please.”

And I’m thinking… wait, wait, wait a second here… First of all, there are no signs about staying off the rails. Maybe if there were signs, you wouldn’t have to scare people half to death with your four horses of the apocalypse war cries.

Secondly, maybe there were signs, but I don’t know because I wasn’t paying attention. Who has time to read when you’re too busy trying not to die while algae figure-skating?

But thirdly, seriously? We need to stay away from these securely mounted railings, but those super slippery, goo-covered rocks are fine‽ These rocks are by far the most dangerous thing out here! And what’s the point of all these rails in the first place if not to use them?

Sometimes, life doesn’t quite make sense. Like pineapple on pizza or pickles on peanut butter or hot sauce on mango… it can be difficult to rationalize the sanity of the world. But take heart, and do not lose hope! For to hope is to be human. That we can continue to imagine a better world and believe in a better future is a testament to the divine nature in all of us. At times I start to lose faith in humanity like I’ve lost faith in Sony’s ability to produce good a Spider-Man movie. But then I remember: Hey, chicken and waffles are delicious! What an unexpectedly great idea‽ Perhaps, truly, there is hope after all.

(By the way, if you happen to know why these park rail rules exist, then please don’t bother letting me know why; you can feel free to not email me at MySpace… is that still a thing? Don’t let me know. Not really interested.)

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. – Mahatma Gandhi