Mobility

In the past week, I’ve visited with several people who use wheelchairs or walkers as tools for mobility. Illnesses or injuries have put them in a position where they need the devices to get around. Most of the people I visited are folks whom I knew at other phases of their lives, when they did not need assistance.

I was thinking of them and the challenges they face as I was doing a bit of work around the church yesterday morning. I needed to carry several items from my office to the church kitchen and from the kitchen out to my car, which was parked down by the kitchen. I don’t always park by the same entrance when I am at the church, choosing where to park by where I am going in the building. It isn’t that our building is so large. It is easy to walk from one end to the other, but if I am carrying something, I take advantage of the variety of different places to park. Yesterday, I had a crate with three-liter thermoses, one with coffee, one with decaf, and another with hot water. If I am doing my math correctly, 9 liters is 9 kilograms, which is just under 20 pounds. Add in the weight of the crate, cups and the container of condiments and I could have been carrying 30 pounds. That’s not enough to be a big strain, but enough that I don’t mind a shorter trip when it is convenient.

Carrying the crate and walking, it came to me what a blessing it is to be able to walk where I want. The simple task I was performing would be a huge challenge if I had to use a walker for balance or a wheelchair to get around.

I often take the many gifts of this life for granted. I have made it this far in life without ever experiencing any major illnesses or injuries. My life has been remarkably free from pain. I have a few aches that I didn’t have when I was younger, but nothing that causes me much distress. Occasionally I will notice that my hands don’t have the strength they once had and that my joints need a little loosening up after I’ve been sleeping, but I’ve never experienced a major disability.

Beyond that, it feels good to walk. The human body is a marvelous creation. The complexity of all of the different parts of the body that work together to enable motion is nothing short of a miracle. Muscles flourish with movement. Moving feels better than being stationary. We were created to walk.

I’ve read several articles about how we are becoming more sedentary than previous generations. We don’t walk as much as once was the case. Our machines, especially private automobiles, have enabled us to go farther, but they are also requiring that we sit for longer periods of time and use our bodies win ways that are very different than was the case for previous generations.

Visiting with friends in their wheelchairs is a reminder that the gifts of this life are ours only temporarily. We do not go on forever. Although we are fortunate in that we don’t know the span of our lives or the challenges that lie ahead, it is certain that every human being will one day die. And most of us will experience limitations on our abilities as a part of the aging process.

One of the gifts of the work that I do is that it is varied. Sometimes I need to sit with people. Sometimes I need to do physical work and carry things. Most days involve a wide variety of activities. Some parts of my job require intense focus. When studying, I need to reduce distractions and pay attention. Other parts of my job are repetitive and can be done while my mind is wandering. Moving chairs from one room to another to set up for a special cantata rehearsal doesn’t require a lot of intense thought. I can be thinking about my next journal entry or this week’s sermon. Sitting with a father who is deeply concerned bout his son requires my full attention. I need to listen carefully and make sure I am understanding his concerns. Reading the liturgy for communion is familiar and easy for me. I can be counting the number of people present, preparing the cups and bread and reading the liturgy out loud at the same time. Making a hospital visit require me to follow the procedures of that institution while focusing my attention on the person I am visiting and their unique family dynamics. The work I do is widely varied and there is something new every day.

I know, however, that this is just one of the seasons of my life. The time will come when others assume many of the roles that are now mine. Age and illness will require that I make changes and some of those changes will be slowing down and moving around less. That knowledge makes the steps I take and the objects I lift more precious to me. I am lucky to be able to do the things that I do.

There are some evenings when I think to myself that I simply can’t take one more thing. I’ve had too many demands placed on me. I tire of all of the things that need to be done and all of the people whose needs are on my mind. But I know that I would miss my work deeply if I were to lay it aside. I get pushed to the edge on occasion, but I’ve never really been handed more than I am able to take. Long days make for peaceful nights of sleep and on the occasions where my sleep is interrupted, I become more appreciative of the nights when the phone doesn’t ring.

And today is a new day. I’ll do a bit of driving, unload a bit of firewood, have conversations with friends, and mull over tomorrow’s sermon. And while I’m at it, I will be grateful for the ability to walk and carry and move around. Life is good.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!