Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Shut-In. It's Official.

I used to feel so sorry for families who had to eat at Shoney's on Thanksgiving. It just seemed so pitiful. Heck, now nothing would delight me more. Likewise, as a young girl, when our church bulletin used to list the "Shut-Ins", a shudder went through my body. Nothing could be worse than being a Shut-In (and having your name in the bulletin to boot!) But, guess what? It's official. I'm a Shut-In. I no longer go to church on Sundays. Even though I received my Sunday School pin when I was 16 for never having missed a Sunday (another blog) now I have joined the official shut-in group; I listen to church on the radio, with Taylor by my side. (It's hard to take Taylor anywhere much because his pain fluctuates so.) Yep. Every Sunday, either in my car or with my handy little radio, I sing along with all of the hymns and anthems. The Methodist Church on the radio has a great choir (directed by Stephen) and a minister with a thought-full message. After every hymn, Taylor says, "Good job, Stephen." ("My" church is not "radioized.")I just sit there with my little shut-in self and sing. I guess maybe I'm thinking that around noon, somebody will then be along with Meals-on-Wheels. Fried Chicken, please, if you're taking orders.
Growing up, almost every Sunday, my father would drag five of his eight children to visit a for-real shut-in from our church. Dr. Shedd, a brilliant and accomplished man, had had a stroke that left him paralyzed completely on his left side. You know how children are: we hated seeing old people in hospital beds, in their matching pajamas, with partial paralysis. But daddy, hauled us (clobbering, hollering, fussing, blabbering) once a week to sing for Dr. Shedd. There, this gallant and valiant man would be cleanly shaven, all fixed up in fresh pajamas, so expectant for these renegade children to enter his home--his sanctuary. Pulling himself up on the bar above his bed, his nod and partial smile gave us our cue. My tone-deaf father lead his five little chorister children in perfect harmony through beautiful carols. No matter what time of year, we always sang, Silent Night, Holy Night.
Always always always, into about the third carol, tears would begin to stream down Dr. Shedd's face. We could see the subtle movement of his lips as he struggled to join us in our song. Still the tears streamed. He cried. We sang. His heart was touched. A family had come in to his home and acknowledged that he mattered---that he counted---that he was still part of life. He knew. Our own young hearts had not known enough life experience to acknowledge the power of what was being shared......yet.
Wrestling, tripping, pulling and punching, back to the car, The Singing "Herdmans" (Best Christmas Pagent Ever) settled into a sort of unusual holy silence all the way home. Even against our protests, we knew that something important in life had just happened. It would not until years later that any of us understood how critically important it was to be forced to get out our own lives and enter in the lives of others ---on their own turf, on their terms, at their level, whatever it may be.
Actually, you see, it's not about being a shut-in after all that makes life hard. It's being Shut-Out/Shut Off from the world we know, from the world we need ---that freezes us in a desolate place. We tend to avoid people and situations that make us squirm a bit. Each of us allows our very own form of paralysis to keep us from reaching out, from stepping out of our own comfort zones and into the very real lives of others. What if, though, with all people whom we meet, we learned to speak in ways they understood, to hold on with them as we all steady ourselves and not turn away when the heart gives way to tears?
Unlike me, Taylor is not a shut-in at all. But, shut-off? Probably. It's really not so bad being a shut-in, but being shut-out? No thank you. (Good readers, raise your hand if you like to be shut-out? Ya'll see any hands waving?)
Shoney's has shut-down, so I guess we'll be dining in for Thanksgiving this year. However, Taylor really loves Picadilly. But, I gotta tell you, that place really does seem like it's for Shut-Ins. Guess I'll be going there next. I hope that never makes it to any church bulletin. And could we keep this ---our going to Picadilly just between us? I don't want that to get around.