“What do you want people to say?,” a friend asked after I shared my reluctance to go places with my 2-year-old son. Her question continues to bother me and only recently have I understood the reason. Here's the scenario. A tumor condition, a missing portion of skull bone, multiple surgeries, etc. etc. etc, has left my son disfigured on the left side of his face. Our family faces yet another crossroad — pull the left eye and put in a prosthetic, or keep the non-functioning eye — not for any medical reason, just to make him look more 'normal' (whatever 'normal' means). More trips to specialists have been added to the schedule, this time across the country.
Awhile back at the grocery store a little boy got frightened when he saw my son. The mom tried to console the child hiding behind her legs, saying, “It's OK honey, all babies look like aliens when they are little.” One time my son was at the pediatric surgery center awaiting another eye surgery (the fifth or sixth, I lose track). A mom brought her son by force up to my son, and said, “See? I told you he's not a monster.”
Regardless of going to restaurants, the post office, grocery stores, parks, the mall, wherever, we can count on the comments, the whispers, the pointing. So I revisited my friend's question to get a sense of why it frustrates me. I thought it was because I had no answer for it. It turns out I do know, but I keep it to myself for fear of coming across as a jerk. I'm good at ignoring and brushing off certain comments. If someone insists on information about my son's appearance, I suck it up and fork over the details. What do I want people to say? Say nothing. Let our family enjoy eating out together without being approached and told of nurses in Africa performing surgeries on children with, “hideous, monstrous deformities.”
You may wonder what any of this has to do with religion in Spokane. Well, I'll tell you. Our family was enjoying breakfast at a local coffee shop one Sunday morning before church. A man spotted my son, came up with a wince on his face, and said, “Ooooh, what happened?” We explained, to which the man replied, “You just need to pray for healing. Jesus can heal him. Jesus still works miracles. You need to keep praying.”
Dr. Lace Williams-Tinajero, author of “The Reshaped Mind: Searle, the Biblical Writers, and Christ’s Blood,” (Brill, 2011) writes about the connection between language and the diverse ways people think of, speak of, believe in and ultimately worship God.