His name isn’t really Big Mike. It might be Percy, or Anthony or Darius. But I didn’t get his name today and so I get to call him whatever I want.
Travis and I were coming back from Lenox Baker Children’s Hospital at Duke (or, as he calls it “the Bakery”). He had been re-fitted for a new pair of braces since the other ones had rubbed a sore clear to the bone and we decided we didn’t like them anymore. And as is our custom, if you have to go to the doctor, you get to pick lunch. After checking on the likelihood of a toy being included in his meal, Travis chose Wendy’s.
I called Craig to see if he could meet us for lunch and he could. He beat us to the restaurant and was in line when I wheeled us in. Travis’ eyes lit up. “It’s Daddy!” he shrieked. He practically bucked out of his wheelchair with delight. He didn’t care that we were supposed to use our inside voice. He just knew it was his favorite dad and life was about to get a whole lot more fun.
The tall man in front of us in line turned and smiled. A sad sort of smile,with a faraway look in his eye. He murmured some nicety about Travis growing up to be tall like his parents. I’m sure I just gave him that tight smile I reserve for strangers…the one that acknowledges a comment and assumes they’re just being polite.
But he kept looking at Travis, and clearing his throat (was his voice getting hoarse?). He said “I had a brother who was Down’s Syndrome. He could walk and get around, but he was definitely delayed.” He stopped, then went on. “I sure did love him. He brought a lot of joy to our house.” He spoke with such emotion, that I caught myself blinking back the tears that sprang to my eyes. But the tears weren’t from the sadness in his voice. It was from the gratitude in my soul.
For you see, God had just spoken to me.
Last night, I had written a blog entry that came from the dark place deep within me. I had written about the things that define my life as a special needs mom – some of the hard and harsh things that happen in between facebook status updates about crazy kids and crazy neighbors, and other random inanity.
I had talked about worry and fear and the future…words too ugly for others to see, so I had hit “Save Draft” instead of “Publish Post”. But God had seen my heart. And he answered through Big Mike.
“Our house was full of boys and loud”, he continued. “But there was a lot of love. We were deeply religious, and that helped us through.”
I told him how grateful I was for his encouragement, and that young Travis had brothers as well, and that this weary mother often worried about how they would feel about having shared their upbringing with one who demands so much of me. He shook his head. “Don’t worry about that. He was a joy, m’am. I’m thankful we had him.”
And with that, he turned and ordered his chili and diet coke and we our meals with toys. Craig and I chatted while we ate, but I was distracted. Mike’s words kept rolling around in my head. I felt the urge to go thank him again, to let him know that the Lord has used him in my life in that brief conversation. I looked around, but he was already gone.
I’m writing this now because I didn’t want his deed to go untold and the lesson go unlearned. One never knows how a passing word of encouragement can literally be a lifeline to another. Mike’s words were that for me today. Your words could be that for someone tomorrow.
Do we take the time for strangers? Do your eyes see the weary one? Mike did. And so I thank him.