Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Wheelchair Highway

One of the never ending and enjoyable tasks is taking the children for walks. The large OSSO compound is encircled by a pathway that serves as a wheelchair highway. Most of the children seem to love the walks. For some the enjoyment is obvious. When one of my students runs up the path with her child, my child points and softly grunts. She wants to go fast too. When I do, she laughs. Those laughs are what we live for.

On one particular afternoon, I am pushing Lucy, a child who is most content when taken for walks.  She is in her late teens and is the largest child with the heaviest chair.  The wheelchair highway starts at the bottom of a significant mini-hill. Chug chug, I can do it, I can do it. After three short loops around the compound, I find myself again, at the bottom of the sloping path, and ....I feel like Sisyphus.

Sisyphus, after angering the Gods is doomed to push a large large boulder up a hill. When he reaches the top, it rolls downward, where he once again pushes the boulder to the top of the hill. His life is in a perpetual state of struggle.

It sounds incredibly miserable, unless one examines the perspective of Albert Camus the French philosopher, who believes in that moment before Sisyphus begins again, he has a moment of hope. A hope so strong that it allows him to continue his drudgery. That moment of hope is a critical key to all mankind.

As I stand at the bottom of the hill with Lucy, my hope, and more especially my gratitude, includes that I have the strength to do this again, and again...that I have working arms and legs, and I've had this privilege my entire life. My hope is that this is a growing experience not only for me, but for the students I am responsible for. In that moment when I gather the strength to go up that hill, I call upon a strength I'm not always aware of, to complete the task. I am strengthening my compassionate muscles.

The myth of Sisyphus isn't only a story about a trickster king who angered the finicky Greek Gods who then condemned him to futile and hopeless labor. It's about the continual cycle of pushing wheelchairs up hills or putting in another load of laundry, or filling the car with gas. Camus' interpretation encourages us to pause in those moments of routine and recognize the kernel of hope hidden within every mundane task, and that life itself, in its endless routine, is about hope.