Insomnia

Lately I have felt a bit overwhelmed as I ponder the future… It’s exciting, but I see so many possibilities and things that could happen that it is almost paralyzing. Tonight is one of those nights. I’m tired – worked around the house in the morning, took care of office and correspondence, waited out a gunfight so I could leave the house to go to the streets, and came home tired and headache-y. In light of that, I thought “this would be a great night to go to bed early.”

So I lay down, and now, four hours later, I’m still awake… I decided that I might as well try and make use of being awake and get something productive, or maybe just a little relaxing, done. So, I’m on here.

Yesterday was St. George’s Day – a holiday here in Rio. And of course, Monday was a holiday as well – (Tiradentes (The Teeth Puller) Day, named after a 19th century republican who plotted against the emperor, and was executed for it – he was also a dentist.) Naturally, Tuesday became a de facto holiday for many in the city. Not us, however… Life, work, ministry – they go on. Anyway, I digress…

So yesterday was a holiday, and when we went to the streets we expected a smaller crowd than usual. We didn’t quite expect only one of our friends to show up – Felipe (not his real name) – a young deaf man about whom we’ve only been able to get the most basic information. He can write a bit, but doesn’t know sign language – thus our communication is limited to smiles, thumbs-up, and basic pantomime. It’s not ideal, but together we make it work.

Upon our arrival, no one was there. No one. Downtown was a ghosttown – hardly a person in sight – kind of like I would imagine in some post-apocalyptic zombie movie… So we sat down by the bay, I tuned up my guitar, and we began a small time of worship in and prayer for that area, and the people who live there. Maybe someone would show up, and if they didn’t, well at least we were putting on a show for the few fishermen hanging out down the way…

After about half an hour, Felipe showed up, smiling and grinning, his usual joyful self. He told us he’d been up at the cathedral praying, and was coming back. We explained we had some food and snacks, and asked if he wanted to join us – he did. As I continued playing, the others sang, and he watched us all with hungry eyes. At the end of the song, I lifted my guitar and asked if he wanted to play it… Of course he did – gap-toothed grin, light in his eyes, body tight and coiled with anticipation…

I handed him the guitar, which he took and proudly placed the strap over his neck… it was upside down, so we fixed that. He then gently wrapped his left arm around the body of the guitar, cradling it close to his body and allowing himself to feel the vibrations and resonance through his chest cavity… and then he played.

The next 10 minutes flew by – they lasted forever – they were over too soon – I still carry them in my heart… He strummed the open strings, over and over, and I realized that something was still missing. Felipe couldn’t hear, but he could see that we were no long singing as he played… So I began. Poetry, Scripture, prayers, thanks, and music came out – and his grin threatened to split his face. And we sang and played and watched the ferries crossing the bay and smelled the sunset and listened to lapping water… And I looked and saw that life is good. Life is so good.

(We also had an older gentleman who was a bit drunk who stopped by later on to sing along with us. He noticed the water, the boats, and the fishermen, which combined in his mind to remind him of the story of Peter walking on the water. As he talked louder and became more excited, he drifted closer and closer to the edge. His monologue climaxed (or so I thought) in him saying “And just like Peter walked on the water, I can walk on the water too – all the way across the bay to Niteroi” (about 5 miles or so)… I was listening very closely at this point, sure that he was about to demonstrate for us, and only able to think to myself “Please don’t jump in the water… because then I’ll have to jump in and pull you out… and the water is polluted, and the sun is setting… please, just step away from the water for now…” Thankfully he backed up, and continued talking with us for a few minutes before continuing on his way…)

Yes, life is a good thing. Not perfect. But it can be (and often is) so good. I think of Jesus describing why he came – “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full…” an abundant life. A rich life. A full life. A life of meaning. A life of hope.

And I’m thankful. And so is Felipe…

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Filed under grace, gratitude, joy, life, rio de janeiro, streets

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