So I went to a conference last week called ‘Story Day’. It was on the topic of hospitality and was a series of stories and theological reflections on what true mutual hospitality can be and sometimes is. It was organized and put off by my wife Erinn and her team, and I would say was a massive hit. I was really proud of her and thrilled to be there amongst so many wonderful, caring people. But sadly something happened to me on that day which made me miss much of the afternoon session. Let me back up a bit.
So I’m sure people wonder how I go to the bathroom now that I’m in the wheelchair. Well here’s how it happens. And yes, this is a bit gross and takes a lot of vulnerability for me to share. Several mornings each week at 6:30 a.m. a nurse comes into my room with a PSW and inserts a suppository up my ass. Then about a half hour to an hour later I shit myself in the bed. Them at some point a little after that a PSW comes in and wipes my ass and changes my diaper and gets me dressed. Then they put a sling underneath me, hook me up to a hoyer lift and lift me from my bed to my wheelchair. Since I’ve been in long-term care, which has been almost 2 years now, that has been my routine. At first it was humiliating and horrible and difficult for me to handle. But now after all this time I have gotten into the rhythm of it and understand the need for it. I used to apologize all the time to my PSWs for this and they kept asking me not to apologize at all as this was all very natural and normal and what they did for a living. They eased my need to apologize which was helpful for me.
Now on to the conference day. That morning I took a suppository but nothing happened. So they got me cleaned up and dressed and in my wheelchair but I still had a suppository in me and I was worried that at some point I would shit in my pants while I was at the conference. I got through the whole morning without feeling anything and was really excited that possibly this wouldn’t be a problem. But sure enough, at around 12:30 it all came crashing down on me. I crapped in my pants in the middle of over a hundred people. Thankfully, my best male friend in the world, Alan Beattie, was there. Without even batting an eye he snagged the keys to my wheelchair van and he drove me all the way back to my room at the long-term care. I stank out the van and he didn’t even remotely care whatsoever. I knew that, and I was already feeling that this was hospitality in action. Then we got to my building, he dropped me off, parked the van and sat there while I came in and 2 PSWs lifted me out of my chair, wiped my ass, cleaned me up, and redressed me so that I could go back out to the van and back down to the conference. All of this took just 2 hours and I caught the last couple of speakers before it was over. I suspect few people even noticed I was gone and almost no one knew anything had happened. Then we went to dinner at some dear friends of ours house along with a few people from the conference and we experienced yet again some more hospitality.
At the end of the day upon reflecting upon hospitality and what had happened to me, I had a strong sense that out of all of the people in that room, most of them if they had to would wipe my ass. I wouldn’t of course want them to, as it would take some serious mutual vulnerability, some next level hospitality, for that to happen. But if I lived in some kind of intentional community with some of them, I have a strong feeling that that wouldn’t even be an issue. So the moral of the story is that I am once again aware of how blessed I feel to be in community with so many beautiful people.
True hospitality really comes to the forefront in shitty situations.
No pun intended…