Sleight of Hand

Luke 14:1-6…..On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, ‘Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?’ But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, ‘If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?’ And they could not reply to this.

  Jesus accepts their invitation 
 to dine
 as though he were not
 walking into the jaws of a trap.
 Ready to love
 always ready
 to eat the food of his detractors,
 metabolize their suspicion
 into compassion. 
 He knows how
 little boys who play in the streets
 lose their native joy
 at the feet of their elders.
 The guest directs their attention
 to a man crippled by
 his swollen limbs,
 as ignorant of their careful constructs
 as they are of his pain,
 and heals him.
 The magician 
 snatches their protestations
 from the air,
 and opens his hand
 where there appears a cool,
 damp rag.
 He offers it 
 like a mother
 to wipe away the crust
 of judgment 
 from around the mouths
 of their little-boy faces,
 rendering them silent.   


It was early autumn, a nip in the air.  I arrived at the soccer complex 45 minutes before my grandson’s game.  After positioning my car near the mini soccer field, I took off for a quick walk to get my exercise for the day, heading for the bike trail that lines the east side of our small town.            

It took me south past the agency on aging and a warehouse, over the railroad tracks, past the high school baseball and football fields.  Once I reach the county park and turn around to head back, I see a man approaching.  He is pulling a wagon with a child in it.  My automatic smile and greeting are ready, since I recognize him, although we aren’t friends or anything. 

But then I spy his daughter in the wagon behind him.  Four, maybe five years old, half reclined and calmly focused on something in the distance.  She is dressed in a witch’s costume, but not a black one.  This one is iridescent, dazzling.            

The encounter instantly transforms my obligatory greeting, and I offer my fondest grandma-smile, knowing and delighted.  He smiles back.        

I think of his mother Margaret, a nurse.  She embodies a higher calling, having mastered the trick of being both professional and winsome at the same time.  Each of her patients receives a tiny rubber duck perched on the tray table of their hospital room.  The tiny ducks have various costumes molded onto them: police officer, nurse, fairy, surfer dude.  A playful little gesture to bring a smile in an otherwise anxious time.  A small connection that communicates care.            

Margaret also sings to her patients if they need and want it.  Her generous, playful nature inspires me to let my own version of playfulness have free rein.  Do I dare?  Her granddaughter might not know it yet, but she is carrying on her grandmother’s legacy.  With her shiny pointed hat and shimmering dress, she is wearing her fierce self on the outside, where it shows.  Just like Margaret, who wears her love and joy naturally. 

Her daddy seemed quite content in letting her wear what she wanted for their outing.  Well, he is his mother’s son. 

He and his little witch-in-a-wagon unwittingly cast a spell on me.  She made me restless to wear my fierce, creative self on the outside, where it might not dazzle, but at least it shows.   

Winsome little witch,
may I borrow your pointed hat
to propel me up and up,
to pierce the weighty pall,
the fear
that I mistake for atmosphere?
I promise I will hold on tight. 
I will give it back
once I find my own wings
to fly above
and underneath
as I used to do
when I was small too.