Friday, July 13, 2012


Once a month, I contract out my wellness services with a day service provider of mentally/physically-handicapped adults, in Wichita.  Like I've posted before, I LOVE my work.  It's challenging.  It requires you to fly by the seat of your pants.  There is NO structure.  It is crazy.  It is never the same.  I am always greeted with high-fives and hugs...a few grunts every now and then!  I just feel that this is the work God designed for me to do.  I feel like I can relate to so many of my clients (friends).  It's tough sometimes, not easy, requires patience, but I always learn something about myself when I walk out of those buildings several days a week.  Sometimes I leave with a smile because of the progress we are all making and sometimes I leave with tears seeping up in my eyes because of how humbled I am by the efforts of those I work with.

And this week, didn't fail to leave me humbled...once again.

I bounced into class with my music jamming to get everyone up and going.  This particular class is all men.  1 wheelchair-bound comedian.  1 large teddy bear.  1 silly, shy coffee-addict.  And 1 autistic "pop, pop, pop" lover.  Sometimes I'll have 1-2 stragglers randomly join us for the class, but mainly its these 4.  Tuesday I had the opportunity to meet a new guy. 

This was my first thought upon seeing him..."he hasn't been in a wheelchair forever."  Here's how I came to this conclusion.  First, he was covered in tattoos.  Second, he had very visible, fresh scars on his head and bruises on his face.  His hair was just growing back in.  He was wearing a shirt that looked not to be his style, more than likely, not his.  He had Nike Air Jordan sandals on with crew socks.  But all of these things were not the biggest trigger for my thought-process...

It was in his eyes.  His eyes were a beautiful pale blue...but they were lost.  They were empty of emotion, joy, and passion.  They were holding something back. 

His staff told me not to get too close to him because he'd hit me or kick me.  They said he probably wouldn't participate in class, that he was just there to get him outside a while.  They said he was a new client.  From another state.  Living here now with his grandmother.  He was in his early 30's. 

I kept all this in mind as I began leading the others in a medicine ball warm-up.  Then we proceeded to a kickboxing cardio workout, before ending with a Poker-style card game, workout. All the while I kept one eye on this man...because I knew there was someone in his body, someone trapped, who wanted out.  He just needed prompting.  He had a story to tell. 

He watched closely as we warmed up, but would look down if we happened to make eye contact.  He would randomly flip-off one of the other guys as they ran past him to pick up a stray medicine ball, sometimes even swinging his stiff arm their direction as if to punch them-if he could only reach. 

He is angry.  That was my first assumption based on this observation.  So I begin to assume something very bad has happened to him.

As we proceeded through the card game, I noticed his curiosity beginning to get the best of him as he lifted his head up to see what we were I went with it and held the deck of cards out for him to draw one.  His staff stepped forward to discourage his participation...he swung his arm at her as if to motion her to step back...and he slowly reached his hand forward and with one finger drew a card from the pile, then he withdrew his hand and looked at what it was. After seeing what it was, he threw it away from me so I had to go pick it up. (This game seemed familiar :)  So we did the exercise based on what the card said...and we moved on as if nothing had happened.

Next we were set to box, I was really curious to see his response to this exercise.  We got all set-up and began to box in 1 minutes sets.  After awhile I heard this grunting noise behind me and turned to see this man was trying to get my attention.  I knew it!  He wanted in on the action.  I held the gloves out and he grabbed them from my hands.  I proceeded to help him put them on...then I held up the bag and he began to punch, and punch, and punch.  Then he stopped.  He lowered his head.  And didn't make a sound.  I waited, waited, waited.  His staff began to say something about him not cooperating or being too tired and tried to step in and remove his gloves.  He took a swing at her, barely missing her face.  I told her to just wait.  He lowered his head again.

He was scared.

Pretty soon he slid his hand up, removed the glove and threw it away from me.  Again.  I picked it up and returned it to him and told him to throw it again, only farther.  He lifted his head up and looked at me like I was crazy.  He bent his arm up awkwardly, and let the glove fly through the went farther this time.  I encouraged him with praise.

Then we went on with class.  Everyone else boxed again for a second time.  Again, the grunting sound came...I let him have a turn again.  It ended in much the same way.  He threw his gloves...but this time he gestured for the bag.  He wanted to throw it too.  So I gave it to him.  It was heavier than he predicted, so it didn't fly quite so well.  But it was a sign of effort in my book.

He wanted to be challenged.  He was motivated by it.

Next we moved on to using the stretchy bands for resistance.  Again, I kept one eye on him as he watched what we were doing.  So I walked over and hooked the band around his hand...again, to the warning of his staff, I walked backward to add resistance to the band and I prompted him to pull it.  He did, then he let go of it and it snapped my hand.  I showed no emotion because I wasn't going to let him win at his own game, and hooked the band around his hand again.  He pulled back and let it spring like a bow and arrow, only this time I side stepped out of the way.  I told him good job and that we had 8 more to go.  So we continued this pattern for 8 more reps.  We repeated it a few rounds and he continued to try to snap me the entire time.  But he was getting exercise, whether he knew it or not.  The other class participant's just laughed and talked as if he wasn't in the room. 

Finally, we ended with some dumbbell exercises for our upper body.   I planned to include him again, as one last test.  I handed him the 5 lb. dumbbell just like I did everyone else.  I prompted them to raise it overhead 5 times...and he did it.  Slowly but surely, he did it!!  Then, like I thought, he threw it at his staff.  Again, barely missing her.  I didn't say a word and walked over and directed him to throw it at the cone I set see if he could throw it past the cone...he did it.  I handed it to him again, we did this a few times.

As class ended, we stretched and I dismissed everyone.  I walked over to shake this young man's hand and to praise him for his work that day.  His staff told me that was a bad idea, that he would probably squeeze or try to pinch my hand.  But I took my chances because I wanted him to know I knew he was in there, that I acknowledged him as a real, live person.  As someone that wanted to be respected and treated no differently than anyone else in the class.  But as someone with some deep hurt and pain and resentment and anger....I wanted him to know I knew that ...and it was okay.

So I shook his hand.  He looked up at me with his blue eyes and I saw something.  He squeezed my hand harder, and his staff began to reprimand him, and I shook her off...because I knew we were communicating.  I could feel it down in my soul.  He was telling me something.

As I loaded my truck back up with the equipment and got inside, I had tears streaming down my face.  I was unsure why.  Really.  No idea.  Except for that I learned something that day.  Something that touched my heart and soul.

Thank you, Jesus.  For this man.  He may not feel a purpose in living any longer, but I needed him that day.  Help him to know his purpose in my life.  Dear Lord, allow him that.

** I later found out this young man was in a tree trimming accident.  He fell 54 ft. from a bucket after a large limb fell on his head knocking him over the edge and paralyzing him to the state he is in now. 

 I get the anger.  I get the fear.  I get it.  I saw it.  I felt it that day.


  1. First of all...What is his first name so I can pray...or...God knows it if I called him "Young Man".
    Anna...You have such a beautiful way with words. What a great reminder for all of us in our journey with our Jesus! HE was right there with you! xxoo B

  2. This post made me cry!!! What an amazing testimony you share! I love your way with words and your ability to bring us into your world! You helped reach him too, it wasn't just you affected, I'm sure it affected him as well. Amazing!