I’ve mentioned earlier that I am partial to the little changes that I have seen in people’s behavior after letting theology of the body sink in a bit. Here is one example that just happened in my own life this week.
The other morning I noticed a car pull up across the street in front of Socks’ house. [Socks is the nickname we long ago gave a rather reclusive neighbor after seeing him repeatedly cut his grass wearing shorts paired with rather long socks, a look our kids found amusing.] This was unusual because we don’t often see Socks himself come and go, and it was even more rare for anyone to visit.
Then I watched as Socks came out of his house and gingerly made his way down the walk toward the car using a walker, and I saw his left foot was in a boot. An elderly women helped him get in and off they went.
Maybe this moved me because I had a major foot surgery two years ago where I was completely non-weight-bearing on that foot for three months, and then in a boot for almost three more. I immediately felt sorry for Socks, and more so because he lives alone.
Next thing I knew I was across the street leaving him a note to let us know if he needed anything. Well, that was after I figured out his name because I wasn’t going to address the card to Socks! I dug through the junk drawer in the kitchen where I found a crumpled, stained, years-old piece of paper listing all of the neighbors on our block. Aha! Socks was Michael.
I left a note tucked into his door explaining I saw him leave and wanted him to know that if he needed me to run any errands for him I would be glad to do that. I also offered up my husband, Greg, to cut his grass if it would help. And I went on with my day.
That evening I received the following voicemail:
“Yes, hello, this is Michael from across the street. I just got your note, thank you ever so much, that is very, very sweet of you! I actually just got home from having outpatient ankle surgery and I’m going to be laid up for probably at least six weeks at a minimum…..So, um, your note kind of made my day. I might need some help, and again that was very, very nice and so neighborly. Take care.”
So now we text. And, yes, Greg has already cut the grass.
Not an unusual or remarkable story, I’ll grant you that. But we have lived here 28 years – yes, 28! — and I have never reached out to Michael. When we moved in, we knew he lived with his elderly mom and aunt, but they have long since passed away. As I said, he keeps to himself and that’s OK, but 10 years ago I would not have done this.
Ten years ago I would have watched him maneuver his way toward the car with his walker, and while I would have felt that same compassion, it would have ended there. I would have a litany of reasons in my head to justify keeping to myself (i.e., it would be way too awkward to reach out now, we don’t even know each other, I’m sure he has other people who are helping him, he might be creepy, and so on).
But I’ve changed. Learning more about TOB has changed me. I always knew and believed that each person has dignity and is created in God’s image. But that didn’t always impact how I treated people. I was definitely too selective in my encounters.
I find it much easier now for me to engage with people I would not have in the past, even if it is just a simple hello or thank you to strangers I pass. It feels natural, not forced, and I know this us from a change in my heart, in my being. I didn’t have to talk myself into reaching out to Michael; it just felt like the right thing to do and I did it.
I’m not expecting a friendship with Michael, unless he wants that. But for now, he knows we are here if he needs help.
Update: Two years later, Greg and I are still in fairly regular contact with Michael. He will text to ask Greg to look at something that might needs fixed at his house, or come join me on my porch if he sees me out there. I’ve learned he is Jewish, and have challenged him to try to get me interested in opera, something he very much loves. No progress on that front, but we consider ourselves friends…so that’s a win!
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How has Theology of the Body impacted you? Do you have a witness to share – big or small? We want to hear your stories! Contact us.