I returned home 6 months ago from biking across Iowa then circling Lake Tahoe on our tandem on a charity ride and despite a wound boot was probably in the best biking shape I’ve been in the last 30 years.
Then three flesh eating bacteria (likely from the streets of Skid Row) infiltrated my foot and nearly destroyed my foot and more.
Well, I’ve ended up with lots of treatments and most importantly ended up learning patience and more by spending the last 6 months in a wheel chair.
My first day in the chair while going to a meeting on Skid Row I was carrying a folder full of important papers in my lap. As I crossed the intersection, I hit a bump and dropped all the papers. As I tried to pick them up, the light turned yellow then red and a troop of fast cars and angry drivers began honking.
Within an instant I became that guy in a wheel chair on Skid Row stopping traffic and hollering at cars!
I’ve discovered ramps that were out of code, even at high end buildings. I’ve encountered many heavy, nearly impossible to open doors that are supposedly handicap accessible. There were plenty of bumps and cracks in the sidewalk and on the streets that will absolutely throw you out of your chair and onto the pavement.
I’ve had a hard time making eye contact and getting service at restaurant counters and the other night at a local event, found it impossible to network with other folks who were standing around tables and talking. When the ball room doors opened, I found no way to pass by the tables and chairs in order to find a chair so I sat back by the entrance and felt invisible as I waved my hand when an award I was supposed to pick up for a friend was announced.
Yet, the wheel chair had also become a bit of a secret weapon. I am able to approach people experiencing homelessness, especially if they happen to be in a chair, much more ably even than I could before.
The other night as I was struggling up the sidewalk to get to a meeting, I passed hundreds of people and the only one who said “Hi, I’ll pay for your foot, sir”, was a man who was homeless and sitting next to a fence. On the way back from the meeting I was heading for a big hill to my car and a young man appeared from Pershing Square and asked if could push me up the hill to my car. His name was Will and he said he sleeps on the bench in the park. I handed him my card and some cash and invited him to URM.
Just before a cold spell, I went out on the sidewalk in front of URM to invite folks into our emergency cots. A young man was peering through the windows to our cafeteria. I asked him if he had a place to stay and he said, “Yes, but I’m hungry.”
When I returned with 2 sack lunches, he said, “I didn’t tell the truth. I have nowhere to stay.”
He followed me into the Mission, received a cot, then later joined our recovery program.
I had foot surgery a couple of weeks ago and I’m hopeful of being upright again, at least in a wound boot or orthopedic shoes.
But I am thankful for the experience. Many of our precious guests experiencing homelessness are disabled and face the obstacles I’ve described above every day.
My weakness is my secret weapon.
“9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-11