When I was in elementary school, we had an event that at that time was called “Handicap Day.” Every student chose a physical challenge they didn’t normally experience, and we were expected to complete the entire school day with that challenge.
I chose crutches because I thought that walking on crutches sounded like fun, which wasn’t the point of the exercise. At the time, though, I didn’t get that. To my inexperienced and unaware young mind, it seemed enticing to swing myself back and forth across the classroom.
By the end of the day, though, I realized how very wrong I’d been. Crutches were awful. My arms ached, I had red chafe marks under my arms, and one leg was tired from supporting my full weight. Plus, I hadn’t gotten to play at recess, and carrying things (such as my homework paper to the teacher or my lunch to the microwave) was immensely challenging. I frequently had to rely on classmates—who themselves were managing their own physical challenges—to help me.
Despite the challenges life throws at each of us, we’re not helpless.
There was another side to this experience as well—a very important piece that didn’t strike me until years later: I wasn’t helpless. Yes, I needed help carrying things; and no, I couldn’t walk on my own; but what I could do was see.
One of my classmates had chosen to be a person who was visually impaired for the day. She wore a blindfold and navigated by touch and sound. From the moment she entered the classroom, the rest of us became hyperaware of where she was and what she was doing, warning her of obstacles in her path, guiding her safely through her day as best we could.
An element of grace was involved in this experience as well. When my crutches got in the way of someone’s wheelchair, the person waited patiently for me to move them. When my blindfolded friend knocked someone’s water off their desk, we simply cleaned it up. We all knew that blunders were bound to happen, because none of us was on familiar ground, and each of us had our own struggles to manage.
As a healthy, able-bodied 11-year-old, I had no idea what it was like to go through a day, let alone an entire lifetime, with such physical challenges. And though I’ll likely never fully understand such experiences of others, I do know what it’s like to do life as a human and to experience the ups and downs that come with it.
Despite the challenges life throws at each of us, we’re not helpless. We know everyone around us has their own set of challenges, and maybe we need help with ours, but we can be the help to others. We can help guide our loved ones past obstacles they can’t navigate alone and allow them to guide us past ours. And we can extend grace—the same grace God has given to us—in the moments when they need it.
“Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received” (1 Peter 4:10).
* All Bible texts are from the New Revised Standard Version.
Becky St. Clair is a freelance writer living in California with her husband and three children. She has a decade of experience in public relations for the church, and currently writes and copyedits for various church entities around the world.