On our way from one city to another we stopped at a mall just off the freeway.
We both had to use their toilet facilities and I wanted a bit of a run round the edges of the mall.
I sometimes feel I am going to seize up whilst sitting on the passenger side.
We did what nature required of us and then set out for Joe to stretch his limbs and for me to give mine a bit of a workout.
My speed is now at just under Joe’s natural walking pace so we kept up with each other quite easily.
We came round towards the food court and saw immediately four young men, all in their early twenties. Three were in their wheelchairs and the other was walking on very cool ‘blade runner’ kind of prosthetic legs. We both guessed that these were young men who had been seriously injured in combat, as much by their military demeanour as by the nature of the injuries they had. We continued on and went round a large circle lobby and then headed along on our walking / rolling tour of the mall.
We saw them again coming from one wing of the mall into another one. They were gathered together and talking. They had their focus on each other with only occasional glances into the mall. It was like they had tackled how to use their new chairs and new legs but were now working on being out and in public and were worried about what kind of attitude they would meet.
Just as we were passing them, one of them said something just out of hearing and they burst into laughter. The young man in front of me had a chair with a low back, his laugh threw him back into his chair such that he leaned way back arching his body as his laugh racked through him. I could see the tears in his eyes from laughing so hard.
We continued on our way hearing their laughing echoing through the mall.
I don’t know what they were laughing about but I do know that they were learning that it’s possible to laugh while in a wheelchair, that it’s possible to be out and having fun, that war may have torn at their bodies but that their bodies were fighting back.
Their road may still be long and hard.
But they can laugh.
They can laugh big laughs.
So healing is in their hands.
I honour them for their service and I wish them hours and hours and hours of laughter yet to come … they’ve earned it.