Given her moniker, it’s a wonder Bugger doesn’t cause me more trouble. She’s been a faithful warhorse, my power chair; and although we’ve had two new motors, two new batteries, two new castor wheels and two new drive tyres in 18 months; she has never let me down in a moment of need. Granted, there have been boggings and breakdowns, but when the pressure is on, Bugger never backs down!
Or, she hadn’t until Friday morning.
Our brushes with disaster have been monumental. A fortnight from Christmas 2010 I limped into the showroom (a bus ride or three from home) with heavy heart and a clunking, grinding, misbehaving power wheelchair. The timing could not have been worse: with Christmas and our January holiday so very close, and the workshop and spare parts people all but raising their glasses of Christmas cheer.
But… it proved to be nothing more than a loose electrical connection. An exhilarating escape from doom!
Returning from Melbourne six days out from last year’s Christmas, Bugger shut down completely in the taxi from the train station to our door! We had just spent three days flitting around the city, and good old Bugger hung on till the very last moment. Disaster averted! It was an electrical cable that had failed, and the service people said they couldn’t get a replacement part untill February.
But… B4 was originally fitted with an LCD screen (I don’t quite know what for) that I had removed and kept in a cupboard, and it just so happened this gadget had exactly the cable the mechanics needed! Without it we could not have gone on another glorious January holiday.
But not on Friday morning.
Little One was to leave for school in two hours for a record seven sleeps in respite care. A lengthy time away from us (she was so brave!), during which Favourite Wife would head north to spend a week minding our two grandsons. And me? Well, I was to embark on my first overnight rail journey in more than a year; catch up with family, attend a school reunion in Sydney, and stopover on the way home for our daughter’s birthday.
But… straight after breakfast in the early morning light a sickening grind suddenly cut the air. Bugger was crippled! (If this was a Tabloid Blog it might have read, ‘Bugger was buggered!’ But you won’t find that sort of language here. Never!) Once the others were safely off on their expeditions, B4 and I hobbled by bus to the workshop, just in case there was another loose connection or a remedy of some sort. There was not. This problem, the experts said, will take some serious work.
Should I accept the miraculous deliverances, and name them ‘blessings’, and yet resent the day of failure? Or worse, should I call it ‘cursed’?
The antagonistic and sadly deceased atheist, Christopher Hitchins, had a point to make here. He cited the example of the ‘Blessed Villages’, sometimes called the Thankful Villages of England. These are townships that lost none of their menfolk to the First World War. Many of them (there are some fifty Thankful Villages, although Hitchins claims there are only three) have no war memorial. Hitchins’ challenge is the naming of every other English village – the vast majority – whose war losses were often horrific. Should they not, he asks, be called by Christians the ‘Cursed Villages’? It’s a challenging question; however it stems from a very rude, dichotomous view of life that would categorise every incident as either good or evil, black or white, blessing or curse. In this paradigm there can be no grey. It is the harsh, fundamentalist view that tears men apart and ultimately pits them one against another.
I don’t think you can easily carry a black and white view of the world too far beyond youth. If you do, you must harden yourself against uncertainty, and develop that hazardous form of faith that despises doubt. Quoting our atheist protagonist once more: “It’s probably the stupidest thing the human race does, to look for patterns in this way and say when a baby falls out of a high rise building and bounces on the grass below, ‘that must be God’. And when millions of children die every day from lack of pure drinking water and just die of diarrhoea in a banal manner, that’s because God moves in a mysterious way or isn’t involved at all.” He has a point. That is a thoughtless view of life.
Is it so hard to see the Almighty beside us in the things that delight and in those moments that terrify or merely disappoint? I’ve always thought it telling that a frequent response to Christ’s appearance was utter, trembling dread. Our salvation often lies exactly where we fear to venture; and the thing we resist turns out to profit us most. It is harder, perhaps, to see God at work in world affairs; but too often we blame Him instead of ourselves, forgetting that where we choose to go He walks as well.
On Friday I had to make the difficult decision, on the advice of my mechanic, to cancel my trip, cancel the hotels, cancel the train connections and say hooroo to my family and friends waiting at the other end. Quite honestly, it wasn’t so hard.