Elizabeth Kaeton is a Priest in the Episcopal Church. She is a friend and colleague. Here is her blog ( Telling Secrets ) entry from 5th August 2011. It is published here with her permission.
It's my own damn fault.
I wish I could say that I hurt my back while lifting a crying child or pulling someone out of a burning building.
No. I hurt my back while sitting in a beach chair for three days. One of our daughters was visiting. I was reading a book. A good book. A really good book.
Does that ascribe at least a modicum of virtue to my pain?
It is better today. At least I'm not walking like "Pretzel Woman" today, and the pain is lessening - it's more like an persistent strong ache.
Patience has never really been my strong suit.
I'm seeing a chiropractor regularly. I'm having daily mild adjustments, mild vibration, light and electro-stimulation and hydroculator packs. Years ago, I bought a home electro-stimulation unit and have been using that at home to augment the therapy. I'm also using light, mild vibration and heat therapy at home.
Oh, and Naproxen for the pain. Which helps. Some.
Actually, the problem is less with my back and more with my mood. Which has been foul. I can't do the things I want to do. Which is annoying. And, frustrating. Hence, the foul mood.
It's my pride. I know it is. I'm so damn independent and used to doing the things I like when I want and usually at a rate that's faster than the average bear.
Yesterday, I went to the market because I needed some groceries. But first, I ran a few errands - bank, post office, like that. By the time I finished and was in the check out line, I was walking like Pretzel Woman again.
The clerk took one look at me and asked, "Ma'am, would you like some help getting your groceries into the car?"
I got all girly-burbly and manage to chock out, "Oh, yes. Please. Thank you so much."
The next thing I knew, he was picking up the phone and calling someone. All of a sudden, a young man named Charles was packing my bags into boxes, saying, "If you give me your address, I'll deliver this to your home five minutes after you get there."
I totally embarrassed myself and started crying, saying, "Oh, no, no, no. You don't have to do that."
"Yes, Ma'am. I know I don't have to. There's no charge," he assured. "It's a service we provide for our customers who have mobility issues."
Mobility issues. Suddenly, I have mobility issues. Who knew?
"Well, it's just temporary," I said. "I'll be fine by Saturday or Sunday. Really. I just sat for too long in my beach chair and pulled a muscle. I was reading a book and I lost track of time. I'm really going to be fine. Really," I said, as I dabbed a tissue at my eyes.
And, I will.
But, this has been humbling.
Charles arrived at my home almost exactly five minutes after I arrived, just as he promised. He brought the boxes into my house, helping to put things into the refrigerator and freezer and into the pantry, closely following my directions.
When he finished, I pulled out a $5 bill to give him a tip. He looked horrified. "Oh, no, no, no, Ma'am," he said. I can't take that. That's way too much.
"Look," I said, "If you take this $5 I promise I won't cry. If you don't, well, I'll probably get absolutely hysterical and it won't be pretty."
He smiled and said, "You remind me of my grandmother, only you're a lot younger but just as stubborn. And, funnier."
"Thank you, I think," I said as I handed him the $5 bill.
He looked down at his feet and then looked at me and said, "Your car has a placard on the dash that says, 'Episcopal Clergy'. Is that you?"
"Yes, sir," I said. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, I'll make you a deal," he said. "If you say a prayer with me, I'll take your $5."
"That's got to be the best deal I've had in a long time," I said. "Sure, let's pray."
"Wait," he said, "I really need prayers for my dad. He lost his job six months ago and hasn't been able to get a job. I told him that I would take the year off to work to help the family, but he won't hear of it. I'm working this summer to help with my college tuition instead of taking summer courses, which really embarrasses him. He's a very proud man. He really needs our prayers."
"I think I know a little bit about pride," I said, "And embarrassment. So, this one will come from the heart."
We held hands and prayed. He thanked me and gave me a big hug before he left.
I'm not sure, but I suspect that prayer for Charles' dad probably did more to heal my aching back than heat or electro-stim or vibration or Naproxen.
I suspect that prayer that comes from a humble and contrite heart is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving that rises like incense before God.
Maybe that's why I'm doing a bit better today. That, and I'm doing my reading in a proper chair and not a beach chair. My mood is even better today. I know I'll be back to my old self by Sunday or Monday.
Until then, though, I plan to continue to walk a bit more humbly with God.
It's not only good for my soul. Turns out, it's also good for my back.
Oh, and of your kindness and mercy, please pray for Charles and his dad.
It's not the economy that's breaking the back of this country. It's the unemployment.
Now, there's a real 'mobility issue' for you, right there.