Listen to this post:
The first time we met, in the stairwell, he introduced himself with a big grin and asked my name. His outgoingness seems atypical of the other students.
A few weeks ago, in warm early-winter weather, I arrived at the time he was returning from an outdoor visit. The aide was holding the door as Antonio trailed behind, cupping something in his hands: earthworms. He held them up to show me, then nudged them closer in case I wanted to touch them. I politely declined. His aide remarked that the child "likes to take care of all the little creatures." I responded "He has a big heart, doesn't he?" The aide shook his head in agreement and Antonio parted my company repeating: "I have I big heart, I have a big heart ..."
I thought of Antonio yesterday when an ugly, ancient-looking beast of a bug straggled out of somewhere and crawled across my studio carpet. Happily, it's the only bug I've ever encountered there. I trapped him with a paint cup, slid a sheet of clean, white card stock underneath and traveled to another room ... several doorways down the hall ... opened the window and let him go. "Be free, my friend," I said feeling somewhat guilty as I released him into a colder climate than the one he'd been enjoying. Just not guilty enough to let him share my space.
What would Antonio have done? Let him crawl up into his hands? Let him stay inside?
Antonio is a wonderful reminder to pay attention to the small things in life, the little creatures, which are as much a part of Spirit's world as we. The boy reminds me of a little creature flying under the radar of the "normal" world, possibly at its margins in a better place of his own making. One filled with ordinary things many of us miss or merely bypass. How could earthworms, who really just lay there and wriggle around in their stickiness, strike tenderness in anyone's heart? Because they are living beings and part of God's Creation. Antonio seems to intuitively know this.
The concept of living at the margins has spoken to me ever since I first read about it in Henri Nouwen's work. An accomplished theologian, teacher, scholar and writer, that's where he chose to live the last 11 years of life: among the most needy and castoffs in the Daybreak community for those with mental and physical disabilities near Toronto, where he is buried.
In a 1994 Christianity Today interview, Nouwen said:
"Jesus didn't say, 'Blessed are those who care for the poor.' He said, 'Blessed are we where we are poor, where we are broken.' It is there that God loves us deeply and pulls us into deeper communion with himself. I find it very important to stress that we are wounded healers; we don't have to run away from our vulnerability as if we don't hurt."Maybe Antonio is confronting his vulnerability in the earthworms. I have grown to appreciate my reminder of vulnerability: each time I hear the whimpers, moans and cries from the school on the other side of my studio wall. At first, I prayed until someone knowledgeable about autism said it's more of a release than communication of pain. And yet is IS a call to vulnerability, to expose our wounds and pain.
Henri Nouwen believed so:
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.
• What or whom has been my reminder of vulnerability?
• How have I expressed or uncovered my wounds?
• How have my wounds become my gifts?
• How am I the wounded healer?
• What stretches my heart?
such a simple
act, one of
that, as adults,
is what may