Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Missionary (10/19/06)
TITLE: A Different Kind of Genius
By julie wood
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“Hi!” He’s perched in his wheelchair out front of the nursing home, waving to everyone who passes by. Split by a melon-slice grin, his moon-round face seems to glow from a sun within. Its light ignites his gentle almond-shaped blue eyes, warming everyone he greets.
“How ya doin,’ Clarence?” Doctors, nurses, aides, and fellow residents all pause to tousle his graying curls, to hug or high-five him, to plant the occasional kiss upon one apple cheek. They walk off feeling cradled by just his smile.
“That’s such a cute bunny, Maria! Where did you get it?”
“That man gave it to me. You know, the one in the wheelchair with his leg stickin’ out. He’s nice!”
Most of the folks who live here are strapped into wheelchairs, and several of the men have legs “stickin’ out” in plaster casts. But I realize Maria means my friend. In the two years I’ve known him, Clarence has had countless operations on that leg. He’s spent months at a time in five different hospitals, been quarantined for several more months to his own room, lost a beloved sister right at Christmanstime. From all these trials he’s emerged still smiling, still ready to love and to play with and listen to his friends.
He’s flipping through his hymnal now, searching for his favorite number “The Old Rugged Cross.” Glancing up, he sees Gladys shuffling on her stick towards our table. He points at her and turns to me, grinning. “Play ‘When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.’” Together we reverse the pages in our songbooks while I happily pull out my guitar. After we run through all three verses, Clarence is beaming back at Gladys. “I picked that one ’cause it’s your favorite!”
“Thank you, Clarence!”
It’s snacktime on Friday afternoon. Lunette’s aiming her second spoonful of vanilla ice cream straight at Clarence. He’s just spat out the first spoonful discreetly into his napkin, on the pretext of wiping off his face. “I’m full,” he whispers to me with a rueful smile, for he’s just finished his own whole bowl of chocolate ice cream. But he turns, broadens his smile at Lunette’s eager face. His mouth pops open birdlike for that second spoonful, allowing her to plop it in. Lunette is his friend. She loves to feed him, and he always wants to make her happy.
The songs he selects are not always happy ones. They speak of hands driven by sharp nails into wood, of thorns piercing through flesh, of blood gushing from a wound in a ravaged side. They whisper of shadows creeping, of impending death. They lament over the questions of pain and suffering…then soar into the sun-bright world of eternity. There is love behind the torture and a promise beyond pain. There is One who dwells within my friend and grants him words of wisdom, transforming him at shining moments into a great sage. He knows his Lord is more important than the Easter Bunny. But he also loves to sing about Peter Cottontail…for his greatest genius is for joy.
Some people might think he has too many chromosomes, that babies made like Clarence should not even be born. But to lose them is perhaps to lose some of the greatest missionaries ever called. Not all of us are sent to translate Scripture into Sanskrit, or to thunder timeless truths from televised pulpits. Some are planted amidst rows of folks in wheelchairs, nourishing their lives with the love-light from the Son who dwells within.
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