I’d like to tell you a story and share a song I wrote, so grab a cup of coffee, get comfy on the couch…
A couple years ago I was working at a therapy/rehab center running music therapy groups for adults with mental and physical disabilities. It wasn’t an easy job. We were understaffed, underpaid and under resourced, as is the case in many of these types of organizations. I led groups as small as 2 clients and as big as 30, often without a helper (it wasn’t uncommon to have a chair thrown at me or to have to stop a session so I could keep a client from banging their own head against the wall).
There was one therapy group that made up for the daily craziness, though, and in it was my favorite client, for the sake of privacy I’ll call her Sarah. Sarah was probably 3 years older than me. She had a very expressive face, she would look at you with a beautiful, beaming smile… or, sometimes (not often) cry tears that would break your heart.
Sarah was living her life in a wheel chair. She couldn’t speak but communicated by opening her hand to signal “yes” and closing it to signal “no.” One of my coworkers, who had worked with Sarah from the start, told me that Sarah wasn’t always like this. They said that she was a totally functional, healthy teenager until one day when she developed a neurological disorder. It was slowly taking away her abilities, one by one.*
Almost every day, Sarah’s therapy group came to see us twice since some of the other types of therapy weren’t realistic for her particular group (cooking and assembling gadgets were out of the question). We had so much time together that sometimes we would read while listening to soothing music just for a change of pace.
One time I was reading, “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” out loud, when I looked up to see Sarah smiling that huge smile of hers, tears streaming down her face. I asked her if she liked the book, she signed “yes.” I asked her if she liked the music, she signed “yes” and smiled even bigger. I asked her if she recognized the songs, she signed “yes”. Through a series of questions it turned into a spiritual conversation.
It turns out the music we were listening to was orchestral arrangements of church hymns (I hadn’t even realized this at first, I had just grabbed it out of a stack of CDs and started reading). She was crying because she liked the songs. I asked her if she went to church, she signed “yes”. I asked her if she believed in God, again, with tears still streaming down her face, she smiled really big and signed “yes”. In fact, she loves God.
It was my turn to cry. And I always do when I remember this moment and the sheer joy on Sarah’s face.
In fact, I often have to put myself in that fluorescent, tiled, overcrowded therapy room and give myself an attitude adjustment.
You see, this past week has been incredibly difficult for me. I have felt discouraged, disobeyed, disrespected, ignored and depressed. My heart has hurt, literally. So many things are not working out like I thought. . .or working out at all, for that matter.
I. have. to. stop.
I read a saying last week that stuck with me, “Imagine if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you said thanks for today.”
I think of that day, years ago, as I looked at Sarah smiling. . .this woman who seemed to have nothing, in fact, had everything. She would tell you too, if you sat next to her, she would smile and open her hand, “YES!”
I think of the Old Testament story of Abraham entertaining angels (Gen 18) and Jesus’ message in the New Testament, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine [visit in prison, feed, give something to drink, clothe, etc], you did for me” (Matt 25).
And sometimes I wonder if Sarah, the beautiful soul in the broken body, was Jesus, in disguise. . .just checking up on me.
I wrote this song for Sarah and I’d like to share it with you.
* I did not have access to Sarah’s medical file so I can’t vouch for the facts beyond my personal experience and my trust in my coworker who shared her story.
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