My life changed after using the last Q-tip Monday night. Sincerely. I planned to pick up a new box on Tuesday once I finished at the library. The pharmacy was right next door but I managed to forget. On Wednesday, I didn’t think about the Q-tips until I climbed out of the shower that night. Frustrated I muttered, “Oh God! …Let me remember cotton swabs next time I’m out?!” I put on my pajamas and wrote ‘Qtips’ on our refrigerator shopping list.
Thursday was my birthday, so my focus was certainly not on Q-tips or any other kind of cotton swab. I readied for work, caught the train to Boston and bought munchkins for our office. Nobody knew it was my birthday and the morning went by slowly. At noon, I decided to stretch my legs, get some fresh air and take a walk.
The tourists were on the Freedom Trail and the office workers were sitting down to cafe lunches or walking back to buildings with their to-go sacks. I walked with a fast stride, smelled the aromas and listened to the sounds of the city. I watched all the people but saw the homeless. How hard is it for them to watch the feeding frenzy?
The rest of the story that follows is not an event I would typically discuss; moments that happen in my Christian life are between myself and God. However, I feel obligated to spread these special words because I think God works in mysterious and beautiful ways.
I passed many storefronts at a quick pace.
Until I didn’t.
My stride slowed and uncontrollably stopped. I was suddenly standing in front of a very crippled man in his wheelchair. The sensation didn’t scare me and I was not afraid to be with this helpless person. I wanted to assist but didn’t know how. I do know not to give money in the streets. There is a shrine, a soup kitchen and a shelter nearby.
I found myself saying words i hadn’t even formed in my mind yet:
“What can I help you with today?”, as I bent over his chair.
His response was slow, labored and garbled. I didn’t understand anything that he was straining so hard to express.
My soul bled for him as I looked to his hands for some aided expression.
They were twisted and fist-like with long, dirty nails.
They grabbed my heart.
“I am sorry, tell me again.”, now I had to know.
He tried once more, working hard to form lips and sound.
I turned my ear toward him and thought I heard words.
Trying to match a food with what I thought I heard, I questioned, “Chips?! You want potato chips?” I turned back to face him, hoping to see acknowledgement in his eyes.
They were covered with black sunglasses; it was a beautiful sunny day.
Don’t let me give up, I thought. This is my fellow human being. He turned his head, left and right and then directly at me.
A definite but pleading “No.” registered in his mouth and my ears.
I had his lunch request all wrong, didn’t know what else to do, and then, at that very defeated moment, I heard his continued mumble as clear as a foggy day.
He spoke more slowly. “No, Q-tips.” and low but distinct, “I need Q-tips.”
I froze. In elation. For so many reasons.
“Of course. You know what?”, I was so happy and continued, “I need Q-tips too. I’ll buy some for both of us.”
It was as easy as the nearby CVS and the cosmetics aisle. I was overjoyed that I’d waited to understand. Coming together may have been God’s plan all along? My spiritual life changed because remembering new Q-tips helped me not to hear, but to see, in a whole new way.
Happy Birthday to me.