Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Family and spirituality

The Day I Heard a Warrior Sing by Anita Decker

I’ve always needed time under the sky. A big sky, without a frame of buildings jostling for space up in the blue. I love to be able to see for miles, to where the ground meets the sky. I love walking through woods of tall, tall trees, sentinels of the forest that have stood the storms of years. I love how each trunk leads you straight up into the sky. I love the tree that falls – how it slowly becomes part of the earth again. I love the dance of sunlight and shadows on the forest floor and how shadows play on the water and stones in a streambed. I love the music of summer darkness, of sunsets and stars; the talk of owls; and the unsettling calls of coyotes in the meadow outside my window. I love walking barefoot in the rain on a road heated by the sun, without worrying about the grime of city sidewalks.

I was thinking of all those things and everything else I miss about living in the country, as I walked along a busy road in Durham, North Carolina one day, on my way to work. That was the day I heard Sloan sing.

Sloan should have died a long time ago, and many times over, according to some of the doctors who have treated him over the past thirty-two years. When Sloan was three and a half weeks old, he was adopted by a woman named Suzann and that was the beginning of his journey into the heart of a mother who would believe in him – a mother who recognized the beauty and depth of his soul inside his crippled body.

For the first nine months of Sloan’s life, Suzanne fought a frustrating battle to find him medical help. She was labeled an “older, adoptive, first-time mother” by medical professionals and sent home countless times, told that there was nothing wrong. But Suzanne was sure that Sloan was suffering.

Finally she learned his story. In the twenty-eighth week of her pregnancy, a young girl had tried and failed to abort her baby. When Sloan was born two months premature, he was abandoned at the hospital.

Suzanne knew Sloan was meant for her family. When it became obvious that he had major medical problems, she was told that she could send him back, and her heart cried out. Send him where? Sloan was her child now – her warrior. He was living up to the meaning of his name. He brought a purpose to her life in a way she hadn’t known was possible.

Although Sloan depends completely on others to care for him, as Suzanne watched, people opened their hearts to his gifts of joy and wisdom. Without being able to speak a word, Sloan formed the deepest friendships, and those closest to him feel blessed by the miracle that he is.

I will never forget when I found out that Sloan is blind. Beautiful, brown-eyed blind. I was taken aback, shocked that I’d known him for months and never noticed. I wondered what else I’d missed. Then came that day I heard him sing. I heard his voice rise above the guitar and the other singers. His face was raised to the sky and I felt as if I was catching a glimpse of his soul.

I’ll always long for open skies, but I was glad I’d been present to hear Sloan’s wordless song and experience how it opened my blind heart.

On the way back to my house at the end of that day, I thought of all the moments I would have missed if I hadn’t been here. I’d been volunteering at Reality Ministries since moving to Durham, which provides a place for people of all abilities to build friendships and to be loved, respected, and celebrated. A place where you can come just as you are, bringing your joys and sorrows to an arms-wide-open hug. As I walked back through the city streets, they felt different – more like home. Although the sunset was cut into abstract pieces by electrical wires, it was beautiful and it highlighted the curling bark of the myrtle trees and a green plant growing in the crumbling cement high on the brick wall of a building.

I’ll always long for open skies, but I was glad I’d been present to hear Sloan’s wordless song and experience how it opened my blind heart.

Anita Decker lives at Durham House, an urban Bruderhof House in Durham, North Carolina.


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