Something about the fact that there was beer and liquor in the middle of the bowling area, caused me to compare the scene to that of a bar.
It was not like a bar at all. Most of these folks had probably never touched alcohol. They were sheltered, eternally innocent, and pure. I have worked with this population for several decades and know them well. Usually the only impurity that ever effects them is imposed by someone else they love and trust who has taken advantage of them.
I had accepted a new position with my previous part time job to drive a middle aged man to his bowling games on Saturday mornings. It would be a challenge for me to get up so early, and I knew the first day would be the hardest as I was charting a new course for myself.
All went well the first day. I picked Daryl up at his home, and got him to the bowling alley on time. The promised post new year snow fall had begun in a soft magical way, as I watched all the other participants arrive in succession. One guy ascended the stairs slowly using his crutches, as I found myself caught between a desire to wait for him, and an urge to quickly move past him to escape the cold.
Planning my course for the next few weeks while I would have the assignment of getting Daryl to the bowling alley, I found a seat that I thought I could station myself at. Daryl went to the lane where his team meets, and I determined to note how long it took before he would need me to drive him home. Daryl informed me the other drivers simply dropped him off. I asked him if he minded me coming in. The stream of participants coming through the door was like a bowl of candy to me. And it was something I thought would have been such a shame to miss out on.
As I sat at the heightened table by the check in area, I observed all the new and unique individuals standing in line waiting to sign in. A sense of extreme joy occurred to me as I found them each to be so excited when I simply said “Hi” to them. Several came over and shook hands with me. Others who couldn’t talk just communicated with me via a large unapologetic smile and bright sparkling eyes. One gentleman who seemed to be acting as an attendant came over and asked me how my Holidays were, and walked away abruptly in the middle of the conversation he had invoked. He seemed to want to talk to anyone who would respond and just walked around having brief conversations with people.
Upon leaving momentarily in the newly fallen snow storm, I came back with a cup of coffee, and found all my new friends excitedly engaged in their bowling games. I walked around and caught one young man bowling a spare. He looked around as if to try and get some approval from someone and saw me smiling and excited at his success. He walked over and I told him “good job!” He reached out his hand for a hand shake, thrilled that I was so available to him. Later I sat down with a small group who made me feel like a super star asking me for my name and aggressively shaking hands with me.
Among this population is a carefree pleasure few people know. Today I encountered it once again, while I was in fact working. Others also waiting for passengers, sat bored at the bar stools or entertained by their handsets. But I was full of wonder and awe, as I sought to absorb all I could of my moments with these amazing people, walking from bowling station to bowling station watching the unique way each individual took part in the game.
A wonderment is lost when we become too adult. A belief in the simple joys to be had in a morning at the bowling alley, is swallowed up by a societal urging to eventually graduate from such things.
Believing in myself, as God sees me, today meant believing in the freedom to be something different. When I am among this population, I am with those who can not help but be who they are. They are not, nor can they be, subject to society’s demands. Therefore they are unapologetic and try as hard as they can just to make a simple honest connection from right where they are. They forgive easy, and love freely.
This type of connection, most of us have given up on. As long as I am in the presence of such extraordinarily child-like adults, I myself do not have to give up on connecting. And I needn’t ever apologize to be grateful for just being included, for being cherished for my desire to connect, to be valued for my ability to hold whatever kind of conversation is being offered, to shake someone’s hand unreservedly held out to me.
This wonderful new job I will embrace as a gift. When life gets hard I’ll remember my stint at the bowling alley and look forward to Saturday mornings when I get to visit with my new friends again. I know they are too honest to let me down, too genuine, sincere and pure of heart to be anything but kind and gracious pertaining to any little thing I have to offer.