I have this strange fascination with the word "grace." As someone who is more agnostic than anything else, the idea of "grace" in the traditional sense doesn't mean much to me...but there are those moments, you know? Anne Lamott says, "Sometimes grace works like water wings when you feel you are sinking." She also says, "I do not understand the mystery of grace -- only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us." This definition works for me, I think.
Here's the thing: I feel like I'm sinking. In spite of -- or because of -- that, I have these moments where I will suddenly find myself not where I started. There are these weird moments that grab my attention and say: "HEY. You. Get out of your head for a minute and look: everything is not as shitty as you imagine. There is shit, and there is also this moment, so forgodssake, stop for a minute and look here."
Earlier this week, I went to get my patient from the waiting room. This patient is a preteen young woman with a myriad of physical disabilities, learning disabilities, and mental health concerns. As I walked out to her in the lobby, another patient -- a young boy with a severe intellectual disability -- walked up to my patient. This young boy was drooling and vocalizing, his shirt was wet with saliva, and he was holding a kazoo in his wet hand. He walked right up to my patient, stood in front of her, looked in her face making a variety of sounds, and attempted to hand her his kazoo.
Both caregivers started to move in the direction of their children, but my patient looked at the boy and smiled. "H-h-h-h-hi," she said.
The boy vocalized, grabbed her hand, and attempted to put his wet kazoo into it.
She smiled. "C-c-c-cool," she said -- looking, but not taking the kazoo. Instead, she raised her other hand. "How 'bout a h-h-h-high-five?" she asked.
The boy gave her a high-five and turned to his mother, laughing and delighted. My patient laughed, too. "S-s-see ya," she said, waving and bending down to his level as much as she was able to get his attention so he knew she was saying goodbye.
"Bah," he said, waving with his hand turned backwards towards himself. "Bah-bah."
From there, we all carried on as if that moment had not been the most beautiful thing in the world.
Something about this little moment, though, just moved me to tears. It gave me what I needed to get through the rest of my day. It was a moment of such gentleness.
I watch people all the time interacting with people with disabilities, and there is always a moment of hesitation, awkwardness, looking away, stepping around, avoiding.
But here, there was no awkwardness. There was no looking away. There was just a love that I don't typically see: from a preteen girl to a boy with a kazoo, there was a moment of gentleness, and generosity, and love. Grace, even, though they had no idea.
And perhaps that is what grace is then, right? Perhaps it is nothing more than extraordinary love that defies expectations and lands you, breathless and whole-hearted, in the next moment, changed.