Crippled Children’s Church

Fathers and sons traditionally form their bonds over sports, or cars, or fishing and the like. My dad and I spent our quality Father/son time repairing braces. Not as glamorous as the fishing and sports guys, I admit, but no complaints. It got the job done.

Yes, I broke a lot of braces, and wounded a lot of crutches. I broke braces with savant-like abilities. I suspect it of being my super power. And for every popped rivet, there was a dad with the right tool for the job. Our indian names were Hammering Father, and Broken Son.

Thankfully, it never made my father angry. Broken braces were just something that came with the territory. “Just means you’re using ’em.”, is the way he looked at it. Besides, it was always a good time to talk and laugh a little, while he pieced me back together again. How many dad’s can say they have built their kid? My dad has built, and rebuilt me from the ground up, more than a few times. I’d go out and break me, he’d come home and build me again. Good times.

The conversations that we had were mostly of a social nature, though instruction wasn’t uncommon either. We told each other every hunting and fishing story we could think of, and then told them again. We also told family stories. What uncles did what, and what aunts went where, or what life was like for mom and dad when they were growing up. Those stories were great, but it was also a good time for the things that fathers teach sons. How to use different tools, or how to check the oil in the car. Things like that. Things I needed to know about. He was giving me history and tales, but also practical and useful knowledge that would help me for the rest of my life.

Those conversations were easy. Other things we talked about, were not so easy. Conversations,that were not so much about something I didn’t know, but rather something I didn’t understand.. Those talks didn’t happen during our time repairing braces. Those talks happened at The Crippled Children’s Clinic.

If you were a parent with a handicapped child, there was no such thing as “..a..”, doctor’s appointment. You would not only need to see the doctor, but a small battalion of medical and support personnel that were scattered about town, to boot. If you scheduled every appointment individually, you would spend most of your waking life in waiting rooms of one form or another.

It was out of this reality that the Crippled Children’s Clinic was born. From the time I had polio at eighteen months, until the time I stopped growing, The Crippled Children’s Clinic was a regular part of me and my father’s life. It was one day out of the week (monday) when all of the doctors, nurses, therapists, and brace men would all gather together at the same time, and in the same location. Patients would arrive very early in the morning, and wait to see everyone they needed to see, in one day. It was a practical solution, to a difficult situation.

Now the Crippled Children’s Clinic was only an idea. It didn’t have its own building or office space. This meant scrounging around the hospital campus for an empty space big enough to accommodate everyone. For years the only space big enough, that wasn’t already being used, was a basement floor of the hospital. It was a storage area for chairs and tables and assorted hospital furniture no longer in use. It did however, have plenty of open space, and four or five empty rooms that could be used for patient examinations. Nurses would set up folding tables as a makeshift office. There they would organize boxes upon boxes of medical records, that had been hauled over from their regular offices. After that, there were exam rooms to set up, and chairs to unfold for the patient area. It was genuinely impressive what all the people working the clinic had to do, before they could take the first patient of the day.

In a way, The Crippled Children’s Clinic was church. Okay, it wasn’t “The” church. It was however, most definitely “a” church. There was a congregation of wounded and broken, bodies and souls. It was with humbled spirits they came to this place to be healed and comforted. They came for help, and guidance, and hope. Each struggled with the flesh, struggled with fear, and struggled with faith. Each prayed against the impossible. This Crippled Children’s Church didn’t have a preacher. It was, however, blessed with an abundance of ministers. Minister’s of all shapes and sizes, colors and creeds. Men and women who ministered endlessly, and selflessly, to every body and soul that found their way to church that day.

Though I am eternally grateful for The Crippled Children’s Clinic and all the people who served there, it was by no means a fun place. If you were a child patient there it was more often than not, quite scary. There was no separation between the waiting area, and the exam rooms. This meant you spent your mornings listening to the screams and cries of the kids that went before you, as they were being treated. Let’s just say waiting sucked.

The hardest thing for me early on, was the sense that I had no say-so in all of this. I had no choices. Exams, needles, surgeries, braces and crutches and the like, were all things that had to be done, whether I liked it or not. I hated being unable to do anything about my own life.

One particular morning I sat quietly and watched as people struggled to get out of the elevator, loaded down with wheelchairs and braces, bags and books, and children in tow. I looked around a very crowded room of misery. Patients bent and twisted into a variety of contraptions designed to straighten them out, or hold them together. Every one of them crying for one reason or another. I saw patients pained, strained, and with confused looks on their faces as they tried to make it through one more day of all of this. I didn’t understand it. Didn’t God know about all of this?

I turned to my dad and asked him why all of those kids had to be crippled. I can’t imagine how hard of a thing that was for him to hear. He was quiet for a moment as he looked around the room at what I had been taking in. Then he looked down at me with understanding and said, “I don’t know son. Let’s you and me see if we can help.”.

It was like my heart had been struck with a tuning fork. Did he really mean me? That “I”, could help? Wasn’t I too small, too young, too crippled, too something or other to help somebody? Well, not according to my dad. There wasn’t a single thing I could do about my own situation, but anytime I wanted too, I could do something to help someone else’s situation. My father couldn’t have said anything better. It was perfect.

And we did help. For years he and I unfolded chairs, set up tables, and passed out sandwiches and carton’s of milk. We dried tears when we could, and calmed the fears of the newcomers whenever it was needed. Anything we could find to do.

Daddy never gave me the, ” No matter how bad things may be for you son, there is always someone who has it worse.” speech. He gave me the, ” No matter how bad you may have it son, you can always help somebody else.” speech. It was a good speech.

I like to think that my dad ordained me that day. My father ordained his son to serve, at the little Crippled Children’s Church up the hard road a way’s.

God bless that man.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. source
    Jun 04, 2012 @ 02:46:59

    I like that website layout . How did you make it. It is rather good!

    Reply

  2. Abigail Carter Scarborough
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 14:54:35

    Oh, I second that….”God bless that man!!!” What a guy!

    Reply

  3. Cindy Schrader
    Mar 25, 2012 @ 01:17:13

    Wow..this story has made me cry, but in a good way. I too, was one of the broken ones and spent a lot of time at the “old” Scottish Rite hospital in the early day. Always in a contraption, or in a cast or something. A guinea pig to be poked and studied. My Mom tried really hard to insure I had a semi-normal childhood. Your story has brought all those memories flooding back. Thank you for sharing your story.
    Namaste

    Reply

  4. Jay
    Mar 24, 2012 @ 19:15:39

    Thanks David. Much appreciated.

    Reply

  5. David Hightower
    Mar 24, 2012 @ 14:54:49

    Jay – This is beautiful and inspiring and truth in its highest sense. Especially:

    Daddy never gave me the, ” No matter how bad things may be for you son, there is always someone who has it worse.” speech. He gave me the, ” No matter how bad you may have it son, you can always help somebody else.” speech. It was a good speech.

    Wisdom for then, now and the ages.

    Reply

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