The stitches have been removed, and the skin has healed, but I have a dark scar that everyone can see if they look me in the face. For awhile I avoided looking straight at people because I was embarrassed.
I felt ashamed that everyone could see my mistake literally written all over my face. They knew my misstep the minute they looked at me. They would look at me with shock and disgust and say (aloud or to themselves) "What happened to you?" The disapproving, curious looks only feed my self-consciousness. Like it wasn't embarrassing enough when it happened.
I was doing great! I was strong, healthy, and blessed enough to give to others. I tripped over a little curb, and found myself windmilling out of control. The harder I tried to get control, the closer my face got to the pavement, until that awful moment when teeth hit asphalt. There were about 30 people standing around, and they all heard the sound. A collective "oh!" went up from the crowd as I lay there for a minute, praying that my front teeth would come off the parking lot still attached.
Instantly this man was by my side. "It's OK, Little Mama. I got you Little Mama.." He comforted me and lifted me off the ground, to my feet. He carried me back inside Ministry with Community, the day shelter where I had just helped serve the meal. He held me while I spit out the gravel and blood that were collecting in my mouth, told me it was okay, "Go on and spit it right out, Little Mama. I got you." He said, lovingly, and directed another member to get me a cold wet rag to wipe off my face. Within minutes, my friends (including this new one) loaded me in my van and took me to the ER to get 4 stitches in my upper lip. I never saw his face.
As I mentioned, the stitches are now gone, but the experience (and the dark scar) stay with me. I've had the blessing of volunteering at MwC lots of times, but this time was different. This was the day I officially became a member.
My misstep (over the curb) left me flailing and fighting for control. It's not the first time for me, or the other members. Sometimes the curb looks more like a bottle, or an abusive mate, or a crack pipe. Sometimes it's a curb of depression or loss that someone else put there and pushes you over, either way, there you are. Falling fast, out of control, thinking you've almost got it. Sometimes there's a crowd gathered, they're watching, but don't know how to help. Sometimes, you think no one notices and you can quietly get a bandage and try to stop the bleeding on your own.
I'm glad I wasn't alone.
"I got you, Little Mama." He said, and it was true. He physically carried me (although my feet were helping) back into the building, where I was cared for and doted on. Looking back, the things I was worried about were foolish.
I was afraid to see my face. Smiling really IS my favorite, and I was afraid mine was gone. How can I smile with broken teeth? They were cracked and chipped, but still attached. Then I thought of the members here. They smile through broken teeth, missing teeth, even broken hearts and spirits. The teeth don't make the smile, the love does. That's what makes MwC what it is, too. I was offered love and compassion when I needed help. I was embraced and comforted by a face I won't recognize, because I was in the crisis of being newly broken. This is what Ministry with Community does. They pick you up with a loving "I got you Little Mama," and hold you close, until you can look in the mirror and see your cracked teeth, and still smile. I love this place.
Think of your curbs.
What trips you up? What makes you lay on the ground, face to the asphalt in front of a crowd, and stops you completely? Who calls you "Little Mama" and gently takes you in? Are you still worried about what you look like? Do you have scars that show when people look you in the face? Are you hiding them, or choosing to embrace them as battle wounds in this epic challenge called life? What are you going to do?
I'm choosing to thank my Maker for all of it. Thank you, God, for the ones who were there to help. They provided me with stitches, a cool wet rag, and a warm smile through missing teeth. I may not remember their faces. I may not know their names, but God bless them, because whoever they are, they are helping me heal.