Monday, July 30, 2007
This past week, my brother, George, nine years my junior, came to stay with me for his vacation. George was born with hydrocephalus and not expected to live beyond a few days. But live he did, and was one of the first babies to receive a shunt to drain fluid from his brain. Unfortunately, this left him with a multitude of physical and mental disablities.
There are so many things to learn from George, so many lessons for those of us who come to know him. Often, I'll hear a well meaning person say that God will heal you if only you ask and believe, that God always answers prayers. Sometimes, someone will link an affliction to God's wrath and disappointment at our behaviors. Yet, I look at George and realize that sometimes, afflictions are a sign of God's love. That may sound strange, for certainly, George has had a most difficult life. His disabilites were certainly difficult for my parents and our family.
I think God doesn't always send the answer that we think we need, rather the lesson that He thinks we need. Perhaps not even a lesson, George gives people the opportunity to demonstrate their humanity. He smiles at strangers, gets in their faces with a bleating "Helloooooo..." They'll either respond with a tentative hello, a confused and wary hello, or in on man's case, the readiness to fight if necessary (for George on first glance appears normal). "What's your name?" he'll ask. When they respond, he'll hold his hand over his heart and smile. "I'm George." After about the twentieth introduction, a quick exit from Stuff Mart was in order.
For a week, I had a chance to see kindness in people that I might not have otherwise seen. Strangers looked at me and smiled, collaborators in making George happy for a moment. And I could not help wondering, what if we all were "normal" and had no one to remind us how fortunate we all are?
Never again will I be aggravated that my five year old asks me to help him in the bathroom. It pales in comparison with a man who need similar help but has medicines that make it even worse (you don't want to know). Never again will I think brushing my little ones teeth is a chore, as I've brushed the teeth of a man on meds that make the gums bleed and teeth bad. Going to the store is easy now, despite my son's shenanigans, and getting to the car for an errand is speedy after waiting ten minutes for George to negotiate the steps.
Many times this week, someone has said to me how they admire me for taking him for the week. Yet, see, he's given me a gift. He's made me see how soft and easy my life is on a normal day. I never knew. He gave me the opportunity to model compassion and patience to my children. He taught my son that sometimes, he didn't come first even as the youngest in the house.
I won't say I'm not relieved that the week is completed, for I'd be lying. It was hard. But it was good. I had many a revelation, a few laughs, and sense of accomplishment. My right eye is twitching hard, but I think that might be temporary. I'm off now to set my house to rights and to try to get back to my regularly scheduled life, but perhaps, with a little different outlook. I love you, George!
Note 3/22/09: George had surgery on Friday for colon polyps. We are praying that the biopsy is benign.