I am sitting here at 1:47pm in my office, in my nightie and robe, on Monday afternoon. Why? Because I hurt so much everywhere, the thought of getting dressed makes me cringe. I had an interesting experience. I tumbled down our stairs on Sunday afternoon. And when I say tumble, I mean that I went head-over-heels three times. A few minutes prior, I was picking up laundry and felt one of those little “snaps” I get in my spine occasionally (arthritis is there) and it was stinging. Anyway, as I was determined to wash some clothing Sunday afternoon while enjoying a fire, some tea, and football on TV, I was dragging the laundry basket down the stairs, rather than carrying it. I am not sure what happened, but by the third step or so, I was hurtling head-over-heels. My first big bang was on the “landing” and somehow I then was twisted and landed on the hardwood floors at the entryway, on my forehead. I have skinned elbows, knees, and forehead. Now I know it is not that big of a deal, but it sure has had an impact on me. First of all, I am 56 years old and already battling arthritis in my spine and a bunch of other lovely places; I am overweight and out of condition; and I was home alone. I could not believe I was actually falling and fully expected to go a couple of steps and be done with it. In my mind, I could just see me doing this hurtling thing. My kids are always saying things like, “Gee, thanks mom, that’s an image I won’t be able to erase from my mind.” And that is what I kept thinking! It was funny, because of this image, but man oh man, does it hurt today! I am starting to bruise and my right arm and shoulder really hurt. Last night while trying to sleep, I also found a rib or two that were not happy with my trip down the stairs. And my laundry is still not done! Ugh!
I have been thinking about how lucky I am that I am not hurt worse. I could have broken my neck, or any other dozens of bones. I was also home alone. My roof is still over my head and I am warm and safe. I kept thinking about how it would feel to be tossed around by storms, like so many have been with Sandy last week. And I am also so very tired of all the hoopla and noise surrounding this election, and politicizing the suffering. It almost hurts to listen any more. I am so upset that entire families in NY and NJ and other areas have no food or water, or electricity, and celebrities were hosting Halloween parties just blocks away. Thanks be to God the mayor of NY cancelled that marathon, or I think more people would really be upset. And then there was this star-studded telethon hosted by Matt Lauer (desperate for coverage and to keep his job, I am sure). I get that helping to raise money is important; it is. Relief is something we need to be ready to provide. We have not improved our system much since Katrina, have we? The Red Cross had almost two weeks’ worth of warning and they showed up in shelters with blankets, coffee, and donuts. Please! People were arriving with no shoes or socks, having been literally tossed out of their homes by this storm. Some people died; some are still hurting; others are missing. And it just isn’t getting media coverage and the relief is not getting to those who need it.
There are so many parallels to life in these two examples of suffering. I cannot help but think of this great work entitled, “The Ladder of Divine Ascent” written by St. John Climacus. It has been studied and studied, reviewed, pondered, and studied again. He lived in the latter half of the 6th century and since then, people have been pondering this Divine Ascent. This is a wonderful quote: “The fruit of arrogance is a fall; but a fall is often an occasion of humility for those willing to profit by it.” And another: “Do not say that you are collecting money for the poor; with two mites the Kingdom was purchased.” (Step 16, Section 5)
And so I fell…”hmmm”….and New York and New Jersey have fallen and movie stars are collecting money for the poor; another “hmmmm.” So as I sit here, trying to get up the courage to shower and get dressed (because I know it’s gonna hurt!!), what can I take from this? First of all, I have been shown how truly fragile we all are. I think I am a pretty tough cookie – I mean, I have raised three sons and homeschooled them, while being married to the same man for 28 years (we’ve been together a total of 30 years this year), and in addition to that, have kept my home and my family relatively intact. We have had our moments, as all families do, but we love one another with a deep and abiding love. I have set my sons on their paths and have opened my heart to two amazing daughters-in-law, who have gifted me with one amazing grandson and another grandbaby on the way. As I laid on the entryway floor, crying and in shock, I could not help but look up. When you are as low as you can be, as I was on the floor, there is nowhere else to look, but up! And when I did I saw an old, German, plaque we have framed in a glass and wooden frame that is also quite old. There is a saying cross-stitched on an old piece of paper with some glittering threads and even some that look like pipe cleaners! It is browning and falling apart and it says, in German, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” And you know what? In all humility, that is truly all I want from this life – that my family and I serve the Lord.
With this storm that came in and another nor’easter due in a couple of days, I think we can all see how vulnerable our society is. Winds and rains can destroy all we have built – and relief may be a long time in coming. And it may get colder and wetter before the heat is on or food is available. Celebrities are collecting money; yes, that is good. St. John Climacus is telling us that entire kingdoms can be had for two mites – what are we doing with our money and our relief? You should send money because it is the right thing to do; not because Bruce Springsteen sings a song on a TV telethon! Our country has been humbled and brought to its knees by winds and rains – not bombs, not terrorists, but by weather. Who is responding? How are we responding? How is our political system reflective of our culture and the aid we want to render to those in need? Have we learned anything since Katrina? Since Sandy? “Hmmmm….”
St. John of Kronstadt said, “Our faith, trust, and love are proved and revealed in adversities, that is, in difficult and grievous outward and inward circumstances, during sickness, sorrow, and privations.”
Think I will drag myself up the stairs and get some clothes on, and on my way, I will stop and read that plaque again, praying that we are, indeed, serving the Lord.