Monday, January 21, 2008

An unlikely teacher

At first glance, Angela can be mistakenly defined by her limitations - big motorized wheelchair, very limited upper body mobility, total dependence on others for personal care, limited vocabulary and simplistic speech patterns, often difficult to understand.

But Angela is a woman of tremendous capacity, and it is this capacity - for generosity, for contemplation, for joy - that really defines Angela. A few weeks ago Angela attended the first meeting of a community prayer circle. This group has been formed as a place where the needs and intentions of the community are held in prayer in a very deliberate way by people with a gift for this kind of intentional prayer. When Angela returned to work after the meeting, her supervisor asked her what she had been doing for the morning. After a short pause, Angela replied simply, "I was talking to God." I am sure that God was listening.

Then last week, there was a serious crisis at Angela's house involving one of Angela's housemates. Angela experienced genuine emotional trauma during the incident, and at times even her physical safety was in danger. After the incident was over and the police had left (along with Angela's housemate, Arthur) I sat with the people who were involved, many of whom were in shock, crying and upset. I talked a little about what had happened, and then quite honestly admitted, "I don't know what to do now." Angela, perhaps the person who had most seriously affected by Arthur's outburst, suggested, "Now we say a prayer for Arthur."

St. Paul says that God chose the weak to confound the strong, chose what is considered foolish to shame the wise. In Angela, and so many others, St. Paul's words ring true.

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