When A Guy In A Sweatshirt Felt Like God’s Grace To Me
Mostly, I don’t know exactly what I believe about god, other than I don’t think god would care if there were a capital G or a lower case g in front of god’s name. I am not super religious, but I am spiritual. I think there is a god and a God and energy and love and light, and that all of those ideas lead to the same thing and that that thing can bring peace and grace even in difficult times. I also believe that people who don’t believe what I believe are equally smart and worthwhile and probably even right about some things. You see, I just don’t know about it all because, remember, it’s faith, so I just am going to talk about the one little experience that I had that felt big to me and that made me feel like I knew something for one short day. I go back to this day when I feel like everything is going wrong and woe is me and no one cares and all of the other sorts of things I think when I’m particularly fun to be around. I have always gone in and out of being prayerful. My prayers sound a lot like Anne Lamott’s: “Help. Thanks. Wow.” I just sort of do it easily and pathetically when I am most in need or most thankful. All of the stuff in between kind of gets passed over. Maybe because I feel too busy or maybe because I just forget and feel like god gets that.
A couple of years ago when I was newly pregnant with my third baby, I was running to pick up my first born from school. I had slept awfully that night, awoken to a messy kitchen, and, therefore, was a total crab-ass (that’s a technical term). My husband was travelling that day and I knew that I had a long day ahead of me. And the sun wasn’t out, so there. It felt like a completely god-less day for me. See, that’s the kind of crappy believer I can be.
On this day a couple of years ago, I waited as my daughter popped a piece of plastic toast in and out of a plastic toaster on our back porch before we could leave to get my son. After what felt like forever, she said, “All done.” I huffed “Thank god” and we held hands as we started to walk out of the screen door, only she wasn’t all done because that toast appeared to her to need another pop down in that toaster. I didn’t notice and kept walking while holding her arm.
I knew immediately that I hurt her, and because moms talk and I had heard the story of nursemaid’s elbow, I knew that that was what happened. I just knew. See, I think that that’s god there. That kind of just knowing. Even though I didn’t think that at the moment. At the moment, I just thought, “Oh shit, who can help me?” I called my sister-in-law who has had it happen to her daughter a number of times. She told me that I needed to take my daughter to the ER. I dread the ER, even though I’ve never actually been to an ER in all my life. My girl was hurt, though, and there was no one that was going to fix it except in that place.
I called my girlfriend to ask if I could drop off my eldest at her house after I picked him up. I grabbed snacks because I knew that I was in for a long wait. I carefully picked up my baby girl who was now repeating the story to me through sobs, “Mama, ‘come on.’ Owweee, Mama. No, no. Hello Titty Tat.” In translation, I had said “Come on” as I pulled her arm, it hurt, I shouldn’t have done that, and now she needed a Hello Kitty band-aid. My daughter had her story on the ready for the social worker that I was sure would be at the ready at the ER.
I carried my crying daughter carefully as I went in to get my eldest out of his classroom. I started opening up his classroom door, but then stood back for a second because I saw the teacher talking to him and a few other boys. As I pulled back from the window, I saw a man down the hall wearing a sweatshirt that said TULANE MEDICAL. I’m not sure what possessed me other than a god feeling that comes over mothers at their wit’s end. I turned to the man and asked desperately, “You wouldn’t have happened to have actually gone to medical school, would you?” Do you know how many sweatshirts and t-shirts I still have from old boyfriends that have nothing to do with any qualifications of my own? This guy’s sweatshirt was legit.
“Yes,” he said. “I am a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.”
Rays of light didn’t appear from above with a holy chorus singing background, but it felt pretty damn close to that for me.
The rest of the story is obvious to you, I’m sure. He popped her arm back in to place in just a second. He showed me how to do it should it ever happen again (usually, once it happens, it’s more likely to happen again until the child turns 5.) I cried after it was fixed from a release of adrenaline and from gratitude. We picked up our boys, who were in the same class, and went on our ways. My day – the day that minutes ago appeared to be about an ER visit and subsequent terrible contagious virus that you obviously get upon entry to the ER – morphed into beautiful. From one man who had the day off from work so that he could pick up his kid from school and chose to wear a sweatshirt that saved my hide.
And that’s how I think god does things, when god can, which is the same as saying when you can see it. I think when you are feeling crabby, awful, and worried, and when you just ask what might seem to be the most absurd question to a guy in a sweatshirt waiting to pick up his kid from school, that there is a grace that may come to you and I call that grace god. I also call it luck. And then I say, “Thanks.” And, “Wow.” Amen.