A long time ago I was a college student, one night on my way to study with friends. It was dark, and I was new in the neighborhood. Years later I’m still not sure what happened, but I had an accident. What I do remember is being on the ground, unable to get up.
I finally hopped to a street light, and saw my left foot bleeding profusely.
Eventually I made it, hop-hopping, to my friends’ apartment. As undergraduate men are prone, they laughed and took me to their bathtub. We washed the blood off, but it just kept bleeding, for a long time.
Slowly, slowly, we decided that I should go to the emergency room. For the first time since birth, I was in the hospital with needs. After a restless night, I was told that I was going to have surgery. At the end of the day, I woke up with a leg-long cast made in an odd angle so that I couldn’t move anything for the next three months as my severed Achilles’ tendon healed.
A semester later I had to learn to walk all over again, and it took me another four months to walk unselfconsciously, without thinking through the movement of my foot, ankle and leg.
Years later the wound has healed, but the scars remain. Faint now, no longer the raw stitch work they once were, but my foot is still numb, mostly.
Biking along this morning, I thought of that horrible moment with its long consequences, glad that I can still bike, even glad to do so with bare feet on an easy path beside the beach.
But I’m also aware that the older I get, the more complex the wounds become, broken world that it is. Our bodies do get hurt, but so do our hearts and minds. We bear physical pains, but we are also asked to bear psychological pains, ones that tear away at our very souls. And wounded world that it is, human beings as human beings bear all kinds of hurts and sorrows; some of the worst are from systemic wrongs, so their faces are more political and economic, social and historical, but each one has consequences which crush us, sons of Adam and daughters of Eve that we are.
And none of us get off. Everyone is broken, everyone is broken by and with the world. Every friend I had in those college days has suffered, some very grievously, their lives hurt in ways that were unimaginable in those more innocent years.
I thought of all this and more, bicycling barefoot along the California coast.
Kyrie Eleison… Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.