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November 18, 2013
Life on Planet Kathy
On Being a Human Bowling Pin
by Kathryn H. Kidd

I had a bad week at church on Sunday. I didn’t intend to; things just worked out that way.

We were about five minutes late for church, but I didn’t realize it and assumed we were there early as usual. But when we got to church and there were only two or three cars in the parking lot, I thought there was nothing to fear. Little did I realize how wrong I was.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to navigate the church corridors with a walker rather than the wheelchair. Fluffy follows me with the wheelchair in case I fall over on the way to my destination, which I haven’t done yet. The wheelchair comes in handy as a comfortable place to sit once I get where I’m going, which is a nice touch. (A rant about the misery of church chairs will be saved for another day.)

Anyway, once we got inside the meetinghouse, I realized there were far more people inside than the number of cars in the parking lot indicated. Apparently the two or three cars in the parking lot were those little clown cars that had disgorged thousands upon thousands of people, all of them little children.

All of them were running in the overflow area of the chapel, with nary a parent in sight. They were doing the little children’s equivalent of visiting, which meant they were running and screaming and waving their arms and burning energy, subconsciously doing exactly what their bodies needed to do if they had any hope of sitting still for the next endless hour in sacrament meeting.

When the children saw me, they didn’t see Kathy, queen of the universe, making a valiant attempt to stagger across the vast expanse of the meetinghouse terrain before finally, blessedly, taking a seat and being able to rest again. No, what they saw was a human bowling pin, even better than the bowling pins in the bowling alleys because I was a moving bowling pin that provided a little bit of an extra challenge than the ones that are stationary.

In truth, it only seemed as though they were homing in on me like Luftwaffe military aircraft. They probably looked upon me as only another of many mildly amusing moving obstacles — no less interesting than the others, surely, but no more so either. So, Luftwaffe-like, they zoomed around me, arms spread like airplane wings, as I fought to keep my balance on the way to my destination.

In any case what was usually a torturous trip but a straight shot turned into an obstacle course that was complicated even further by a ten-year-old girl who inexplicably kept tugging on my clothes as I walked, threatening to pull me off-balance because I was wearing a fuzzy fabric and she liked the feel of it. And then there were the beloved friends who hadn’t seen me walk post-coma and who just had to give me and my walker a hug while I was in transit.

As if all this were not enough, there were about ten ward members who decided to have an informal pre-sacrament meeting right on the row where I usually sit. It’s not that I have a particular affinity to that pew, but we sit there because it is shorter and designed for wheelchairs. Fortunately, the meeting broke up just as I arrived, and I did not have to trample anyone or hit them with my cane (which would have been awkward, because I do not own a cane).

By the time I reached my seat in the chapel, I was a twitching wreck. Never mind that I had to move from place to place between meetings and then walk back to the car after all the meetings were over; I was a twitching wreck even before all that. To say I didn’t get much out of the meetings was an understatement.

And the cheerful comments about my improved mobility didn’t have the happy effects that my friends hoped they would. I just wanted to go home and pull a blanket over my head. Period. I had had enough of church and people and everything else for one day, thank you very much.

As Fluffy and I talked about the experience later, we realized we had caused the problem ourselves by being late. We then exacerbated the issue by trying to leave as soon as church was over rather than waiting for everyone to be gone as we usually do. Alas, the Primary children were much faster, we were fighting hall traffic every step of the way, and the hall traffic had every bit as much business being there as we did.

It’s unfair to the children in the ward to be angry with them for acting like children. It’s unfair to huggers to expect them to refrain from hugging people — even people who are uncertainly trying to walk from one place to another, and who just need to find a place to sit down and rest.

I don’t have an explanation for the ten-year-old pulling on my clothes, but I guess I should expect behavior like that too. A ward is a family, and families are composed of all kinds of people. People do crazy things and we have to be ready for whatever happens — even when we’re staggering from one place to another and being followed by a wheelchair.

Life is like the halls of our church meetinghouse. There are obstacles every step of the way. We can pause to admire them, we can step around them, or we find a way to climb over them. The one thing we cannot do, however, is to let those obstacles stop us from reaching our ultimate destination, which is eternal life with our Heavenly Father.

On Sunday I wanted to sit in the hall and cry because the obstacles in my way seemed too great to overcome. But with a little rest and a little spiritual nourishment, I was able to tackle the world again.

We don’t have to meet the world’s challenges all at once, and we don’t have to do them all alone. If things seem impossible right now, find a friend to help you through the hard times. If we help one another, we can navigate this obstacle-filled world together.

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