Yesterday was the first day in a long while that it seemed that the cold could be effectively battled by layering and layering and layering our clothing. It had warmed to -8, which compared to recent days seemed even slightly warm. We had been keeping our excursions to just the local neighbourhood so we were in need of a really good shopping at the supermarket. A supermarket that had been determined to be 'out of range' in the cold. We got up, got dressed and headed out.
It felt nice being out and, even though the wind made the temperatures feel much colder, we were simply enjoying being together and walking down Yonge street. We were only one traffic light away from the store when it happened. We were waiting, with a bunch of other people for the light to change. A man, nicely dressed and well appointed, coming towards us from the west saw me and hurried forward. Never a good sign. He got to us a few moments before the light changed. His rush had drawn the attention of others who had also been waiting.
On arrival, he lifted his hand, palm out, and said a blessing over me. Startled looks came my way from others in the crowd. Kindly looks went his way. It was like they thought that this nice man was giving me a gift, a gift I obviously needed.
I choked down embarrassment and quickly sped away from him when the light turned.
A number of people have commented in the past that I can be churlish and ungrateful to people who are just being nice.
Even so, I hated what he had done.
I felt assaulted by his blessing.
I felt diminished by what his blessing meant and assumed.
He saw me, in a crowd of many, as the one person who needed a blessing from God. Here I had been, feeling blessed to be out, with Joe, enjoying the day, and here he was seeing me as a person who was in desperate need of a blessing intervention. His assumption was that my status as a disabled person was one in which made me perpetually in need of blessings from others. The fact that he centred me out from everyone else as the one in need of a blessing meant that he saw me as less worthy and more needy than anyone else around me. His gentle voice and the brief prayer he spoke called God down to bless this "poor man in his struggles" may have seemed kindly to others but it was a kick in the gut to me. I am NOT that. I AM NOT WHAT HE SAID.
I didn't do or say anything. I just endured and then rushed away. I felt somehow powerless in the face of his blessing. I felt like many victims of public abuse, terribly, terribly alone. Joe, too, said that he was so shocked that he didn't know what to do either.
He meant, I think in his own heart, to give me a gift.
His arrogance and privilege will never lead to self reflection, I'm sure of it. But if he does think about it I hope he comes to see it as I experienced it - as an act of spiritual violence.