Sunday, July 19, 2009


I got us there almost two hours early. The fact that I don't like being late combined with the fact that I still misjudge how fast my power chair can go had us out the door far too early. We got to the theatre long before the box office would open. So we spent an hour wandering around the U of T campus. We talked about living in the city again and getting back into seeing live theatre, getting back into really using the city for what it had to offer. We were off to see bare a new musical in it's Canadian premiere.

Hart House Theatre is accessible through a series of ramps and hallways leading to an elevator down. We picked up the tickets at the box office and they let us into the house early so I could check accessibility. At first I thought that we'd have to leave because right after entering into the theatre there is a sharp drop down and 'a bit of an incline' as the usher described it. I could just imagine my wheelchair plummetting down following the rules of gravity rather than the instructions of it's driver.

For awhile we parked way up back tucked up by the back row. After calming panic and really looking at the drop, I thought, maybe, I could do it. Joe alerted the usher that we were going to head down. Her face paled but she nodded and wished us well. I aimed over the precipice and down we went. Joe held on to the back but even so I went at breakneck speed, understanding for the first time what was meant by that expression. Once seated third row back, I began to worry about making it back up the hill. I gave it one trial run and knew that I could make it back up. A few minutes later, the house was open and the rest of the audience was allowed in, unaware of the drama that had already unfolded in the theatre.

The play bare is the story of two boys in Catholic school coping with their sexuality. In a hidden relationship, one is discovering courage, the other is discovering fear. For a play that could have been dismissive and hostile to faith, there are a surpising number of songs that are based on the inner prayers of teens towards a God that they want to believe in, a God they want to hear them, a God they want a relationship with. Because the playwrights don't cheapen that longing for a relationship with the divine, the play works well on an emotive basis.

At one point the nun, Sister Chantelle, played brilliantly by Nichola Lawerence, sings a song to Peter, a brave and powerful perfomance by Wade Muir. The song "God Don't Make No Trash' is one of those wonderful kind of Broadway songs that is funny, is moving, is heartfelt, is profound. In it Sister Chantelle explains the central nature of God, explains that Peter is already loved by God. I found myself sitting with quiet, silent tears streaming down my face. I found myself wishing that every person who has ever struggled with difference could hear that song. I found myself remembering ...

When I was a mere boy, just a boy, I understood from bloody experience what the educational phrase 'not fitting in with his peers' meant. But, while still at a formative age, I attended Sunday School at the small United Church in the town where I grew up. My Sunday School teacher was a 'spinster woman' who was known for her quiet and pious life. She smiled seldomly but always genuinely. In her class, I was an equal as a recipient of attention, of praise and of care. It may have been my first real experience of equal expectation and of recognition of merit. Others feared her, because people fear those with the abilities given by true faith. I did not fear her, I admired her. I remember one day just after class, I was feeling good because I had said something that she had found interesting, well, the word she said was 'remarkable'. I don't remember what I said, but I do remember, she called to me and I came back to her. She gently touched my cheek, a tiny touch, and she said, "I believe in God because he constantly astonishes me in the beauty he creates in others." Then she patted my cheek and sent me on my way.

While I was busy learning about fear and rejection in the real world, a moment of assurance, a moment of quiet affirmation, would put enough water in the well for every desert of the soul that I would travel through. Many have wondered about my faith, many have wondered why I count myself a believer through almost all of my life, I think it's because 'I am constantly astonished in the beauty he creates in others'. I think it's because she taught me to see beyond what I am expected to see. God Don't Make No Trash.

I left the theatre quietly, thinking about the play, about all those kids on the stage who worked so hard, about the standing ovation they got from others and from inside my heart. I thought also about the message, God don't make no trash. I realize that this is a sermon that I need to preach, not through this blog, not from a pulpit, but from every interaction I have with others. That I am given this unique opportunity in my work with people with disabilities, in my relationship to their care providers to 'do' the sermon that needs to be preached. God don't make no trash.

I have a renewed vision of what Monday will bring. Opportunities to affirm and honour difference made, difference intended, difference wanted.


Belinda said...

"I realize that this is a sermon that I need to preach, not through this blog, not from a pulpit, but from every interaction I have with others."

What is in our heart leaks out and speaks more loudly than words. People know if you love people. It showns up in the smallest things, like that spinster teacher's touch. And it works the other way around too. Words and smiles can't cover up a hard heart.

Gwen said...

What an absolutely lovely post. I only wish your old Sunday School teacher could know what an impact her words made on you. We adults have such power in the lives of children, don't we? Our words echo throughout the rest of their lives. I hope my words will someday mean as much to the children in my life as your teacher's meant to you.

Thank you for the encouragement you gave me today about my own situation. :)