The perspective changed when she sat in the wheelchair. It changed the way people saw her, the way people knew her. For some, even those that had known Marty forever, they couldn’t see past the chair, they couldn’t accept Marty in her brokenness.
I hope we change some of that.
This Sunday Marty and I are going to visit with our church’s youth group. We are going to talk about our life, we are going to talk about our life before the chair, and we are going to talk about our life after the chair.
Marty’s fingerprints are all over the youth suite where we will meet. She was intimately involved with Christian education in our church and with growing and fostering the youth group. She loved the kids.
I hope before we leave they will see Marty as the person she was and the person she still is, I hope they understand her connection to them and I hope they move from defining her by her disability. I hope these young minds can see Marty as more than a strange empty vessel in a wheelchair.
Somehow, some way, I want to humanize Marty for these kids, and I want them to know her for her courage and her love. Somehow, some way, I want them to lose their fear of her, to forget for a few minutes their discomfort, to listen to her, to touch her to understand that they are part of her legacy.
They need to understand that they are connected to this woman in ways they don’t know because she got sick before most of them were old enough to know her contributions to their lives. They need to know that Marty worked hard to make the youth program at First Presbyterian count, that she worked hours and gave of herself so that the young people of our church would have a place to be, a place to be young, a place to be free to say and feel their doubts and express their fear and their joy.
I think it’s important they know Marty sat in the sanctuary when some of them were baptized. I want to remind them that she promised, as we all do at that sacramental moment in our church, to help them in their faith journey and that she promised to be a part of their lives as children of God.
I want them to understand that the strokes have made Marty self-conscious and it is really hard for her to be in front of people, she’s afraid of the staring; she’s uncomfortable with the judgment.
I want them to know that she pushed past those fears because she believes in living her own baptism and fulfilling the promise she made years ago to God, to them and to the others who she saw baptized. I want them to understand that part of her life today is to foster love for those who are hard to love. I want them to know that even though they were too young to see Marty’s work, her dedication, her past has affected their present.
I don’t want them to look at Marty or any others in her situation and simply focus on the disability, to see nothing but the chair or the broken body. I want them to understand her current abilities and see that she is much more than what she can’t do and that when you take the time to know her you discover her personality and her essence and that those things remain amazing.
I want them to see and know just a little of the Marty that I know. I also want them to know that part of their obligation, part of their journey is to try and reach out to the least among us and that part of the way they live out their own faith and baptism is to look past a wheelchair and start to see the person, the real person sitting in the chair.
And from there it’s simple, just reach out and touch them.