By Barb Arland-Fye
Washing my hands in a women’s restroom at diocesan headquarters, I heard a “ping” as one of my crutches fell to the ground. A pin had fallen out of the crutch and one of its screws was missing. Frantically, I grabbed for the cell phone I had fortuitously placed in my backpack and called my office, located in the same building. Nancy, our circulation manager, responded immediately. It’s not the first time someone has pulled me out of a jam during this period of recovering from a broken leg and surgery.
For me, Lent has become a season of gratitude.
Lunch tray needs to be carried to a table? Someone comes quickly to my aid. Assignments need to be delegated? My staff willingly takes on extra work. What to do about crutches crashing to the floor beside my desk? Nancy’s husband came up with a device on which to perch the crutches. How to get to and from work? Kathy, who works at St. Ambrose University just a few blocks from my office, offered to do that. Her only request: that I “pay it forward.” Make arrangements for me to participate comfortably with the choir during Mass? Cheryl, the music director, and the choir members did just that.
Two weekends ago I heard a homily reflecting on the reading from John’s Gospel about the Samaritan woman at the well and the living water that Christ gives, through his self-sacrifice, to quench all thirst. We listeners were asked to consider the wells from which we have drawn. That night I thought about the many wells from which I’ve drawn since my accident Feb. 14: wells of prayer, physical assistance, anointing before surgery, transportation, cards of encouragement and other thoughtful gestures. One well-wisher wrote that at least I am still able to write.
Sometimes frustration sets in because I’ve always been physically active and never thought twice about being able to walk and run, to open and close doors or walk up and down stairs. This Lenten season God has provided me with lessons in patience and a glimpse of the challenges people with physical disabilities live with on a daily basis. A friend from my parish commiserates. She recalled one of the most humbling moments of her life: a visit to the circus while she was using a wheel chair. From her vantage point, “I saw a lot of purses.”
An acquaintance and former runner has a debilitating disease that ended his running days. Still, he thanks God for the activities he is able to participate in. A priest who has a prosthetic leg offered me tips on how to use crutches to brace myself going up and down stairs. I’ve never heard him complain about the loss of his leg or the phantom pains he still experiences.
My son Colin asked me if I’d ever walk again. In his autistic mind, the present situation is a permanent reality. His question heightened my sense of gratitude. Yes, I will walk again on two feet!
The cliché “it takes a village to raise a child” could be paraphrased to state “it takes a village to help one of its villagers mend.”
I have a village supporting me — the surgeon, a physician’s assistant, nurses, colleagues, parishioners, family, friends and acquaintances — which fills me with gratitude.