I was late. The engine idled and my blinker clicked while I maintained an anxious backbeat on the steering wheel. Easing forward, I looked left for oncoming cars, hoping to slide in.
Just before pulling out I saw him on my right; a man-sized torso with boy’s legs. He’d bundled against the April chill, but his pant legs hiked, revealing stick-like shins with translucent skin, lying at an angle like books on a shelf.
With the palm of a misshapen hand he accelerated his automatic wheelchair and lurched down the sidewalk ramp. He stretched to depress the walk button with his thumb; the chair held in the balance as noon traffic raced by.
He looked furtively to his left, and our eyes met. Evidently he’d done this before and was aware that to us “right-on-red” drivers, he was mostly invisible and always inconvenient. When the walk signal switched, he glanced left again and took the plunge into the cross-hatched lane.
I waited obediently as he made his tedious trek across Wisconsin Avenue, although I could sense engines revving impatiently behind me. With coat collar raised against the spring wind, he kept determined eyes down, and I imagined some self-talk ran through his mind: “Keep going, almost there.” I held back the tide of traffic like a dam and considered this man as his wheels turned.
What brought him downtown on this blustery day? He’d ventured out handicapped and alone. Was he lonely, angry or afraid? Speculations at best, but I felt compelled to pray somehow for this man as he took his window of opportunity, and I missed mine.
Or had I? While my foot steadied the brake, I prayed. I offered up the externals, his body which visibly swam against the current of everyday life, and then the internals, which only God knew.
I dwindled down, realizing I had no idea what to pray for, so I simply confessed my presumptions and thanked God for interceding. I was reminded that, while we may not always have the words, God knows our hearts.
As the man reached his destination and I turned towards mine, God brought an understanding of our shared pilgrimage, a glimpse of other-centeredness not soon forgotten.
Lori Jones is a wife and mother of three children. She is a self-employed database designer who works part time in order to balance caring for her family and home with her passion for writing and teaching. Lori is a regular speaker and teacher for Women’s Wednesday Bible Study at Calvary Bible Church in Neenah, Wisconsin. Read Lori’s devotions.