Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

31 Days of Courage: What I Learned From My Mother

One thing I really love about Jesus, among many, is his uncanny knack for making friends with the unlikeliest folks. 

A short guy who nobody likes…that swindler hanging in a tree, yep, Jesus went to his house for supper.  A woman at a well who was married umpteen times, was considered a nobody, especially to the Jews…Samaritan, she might as well have been a leper.  Oh yeah, lepers too.  And wealthy religious guys, soldiers and fishermen.  The humility of Christ is mind blowing.  He befriended those who thought they weren’t worthy to grovel at his feet and likewise those who thought He wasn’t worthy to grovel at theirs. 

As always, He stands as the high, exalted example.

Isn’t it strange how we folks today isolate ourselves from people not like us?  And quite frankly, it takes effort…courage really, to approach someone in a wheelchair who drools a little and makes funny noises.  On the other side of the fence, we fear starting a conversation with a corporate president in a Brooks Brother’s suit.  Why are we afraid of what is not like us?

My mother, Cynthia Marie Connor Champagne, was the bravest person I’ve ever known.  She battled the brutality of schizophrenia from her mid-twenties until she died at age 60.  One thing my mother was great at was relating to people of all stripes.  She treated doctors, lawyers, plumbers and janitors with the same respect.  Her wit was sharp and her humor steadfast despite the menacing burden of a horrific affliction.  She was isolated by her disease, but always stood at the ready to accept every person who could get past the oddities of her broken psyche.  Though many were uncomfortable with her, she stretched hard to reach some kind of relationship with people, even with the handicap of a broken mind.

Me, Mom and my brother Donnie - Danny's not born yet

Even though she was unable to raise me past my 10th birthday, she showed me the way of courage.

Today a family got on the elevator with me.  A young woman in her electric wheelchair, probably around 16, non-verbal with uncontrolled muscle movements,  playfully backed in to her mother.  I looked at this young woman, and thought of my mom, and of my Jesus, and how they might respond in this cramped space, with a profoundly disabled teenager who was goofing off with her mom even while trapped within the bounds of her great limitations.  But I was uncomfortable.

So I pulled up my big girl boots and spoke to the young woman.  I heard the whole family call her Micaela, so I had an in.
“Micaela, are you trying to squish your mom?”
Micaela lifted her head and smiled, and backed in to her again.  Her mom laughed, her sisters and her dad laughed, and I laughed!  Micaela’s mom looked at me with gratitude as if I had just handed her the ticket to Derek Jeter’s last game at Yankee Stadium. Why?  Because I had taken 10 seconds to acknowledge this precious human being who likely has been ignored and passed over by many.  I’ve done the passing over many times myself with people “not like me”. 

 In that little interaction of fun with Micaela, I felt the discomfort draining from my body.  As the doors opened, I put my hand on Micaela’s arm and felt her soft, warm sweater and smiled at her.  I was grateful to her for being there to bring me a bit of laughter in a cold world.  For a moment, we related.  I overcame my discomfort and found a little joy.

There’s nothing heroic in sharing a laugh with a disabled girl and her family.  But for me, there was a little bit of brave required to let go of what the outcome might be there.  These are the tiny attitudes and actions that might just bring us up out of the mundane and make an often icy world a little warmer.

Thanks Mom.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


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