That's Sunday. For a long time now, that's been pretty much the sum total of the involvement between church and the shops; well, that and the mad midmorning dash for emergency milk and biscuits when stocks run low between the services, repeated midweek during the various toddler groups, prayer groups, and other church activities. Periodically on a Monday night girls all dressed in blue will run in to buy marshmallows or matches, boys in green might do the same thing on a Wednesday evening, and every so often small groups of non-church Youth tanked up on underage alcohol will shuffle from the shop forecourt to the churchyard and back again as they debate where to scribble their next piece of graffiti or which bench is better to vomit on.
A short while ago (or possibly a longer while ago; I'm not terribly observant about these things) a group from the church decided to embark on a "Healing in the Streets" mission. Saturday mornings, a time when the church is usually pretty quiet, a small group gather and base themselves in the shop carpark where they offer prayer ministry to any shopper who cares to ask for it. They seem to have had a fair bit of interest and support from the community, always good.
Whilst I've been vaguely aware this has been happening, I've not actually experienced it myself yet - Saturdays are traditionally the one day in the week where we don't have a carer come in in the mornings, so they are therefore by extension the one day in the week where I feel entirely justified in hanging about in pyjamas doing nothing very much. We have carers every morning at the moment as it takes two of us to get Little Fish dressed, so we're up and about somewhat earlier than might otherwise be expected. So far though we've been happy to either hang about at home doing a whole lot of nothing (and doing it well), or we've been away.
This morning our carer came, both girls were raring to go, and we decided to brave the 200yard dash to the shop to post a letter. It's not a difficult trip; one big road to cross with two exciting buttons to push to make the traffic stop for you*, one slightly awkward bit where the path narrows and too many sloping drives make for a wobbly push, but the rest of it is nice level tarmac without any sandwich boards, dustbins, parked bicycles or other pavement
Amazingly we managed to shut the door without incident (chasing Goway and his dead pet sparrow out ahead of us doesn't necessarily count as an incident; I didn't have to touch the bird so it doesn't count and I can pretend it never happened and that he's a sweet harmless fluffy thing). We walked down the path without being mugged or shot or even halted by people stopping immediately in front of us to remind us of our bravery. We pressed the button, the red man went away and the green man came, we shouted hurray (and by we, I mean Little Fish), and then we waved at the cars and shouted our thanks to them for stopping (and again, by we, I mean Little Fish). We went single file for the wobbly bit of the pavement without either child needing to go backwards, and then back into formation (two children in front, yours truly behind, one chair in either hand, for anyone reading who is presently thinking "I don't know how you do it").
And then it happened. Gradually we noticed soft and gentle music wafting through the air. And we saw two men staring at us with a strange gleam in their eyes. A kind, concerned, caring "must-be-gentle-and-polite-and-make-inane-joke-to-pretend-I-am-comfortable-with-the-fact-there-is-a-woman-pushing-two-children-in-wheelchairs-walking-towards-us" kind of a gleam. I'm used to that, what I'm not used to is the mild panic I noticed hovering about the edges of the kindly gleam. And then two women approached too, causing us a mild problem as the pavement is a little rutted here, and any stopping makes it inevitable that a wheel will get caught in a hole and our progress will be halted. Little Fish dropped the letter at this point, a car ran over it, and we paused to retrieve it, escaping the women with nothing more than a brief hello and acknowledgement of our mutual existence. Not, however, without hearing the "I don't know how she manages"/"however does she do it?" conversation which echoed in our wake. And then I realised what the panic was all about - underneath the casual concern was fear that we might be coming in for a spot of healing.
You're safe lads; the girls and I are not in search of healing just at the moment. Or at least, not from their disabilities anyway. I'll take all the prayer anyone feels inclined to give us that Little Fish's hip has knitted itself back together enough for her brace to come off and stay off on the 6th. I'll take plenty of prayer that Mog's seizures stay stable and that she can shake off a little of the sedating effect from her current drug cocktail. And if you feel inclined to pray for me then pray for my wrists and back, so that they stay strong enough to do everything we need them to do for the three of us. But just for now we'd like to post our letter and buy some bread, and that's all thanks. Apart from anything else; I'd be out of a job if we had too many miracles.
We went in, we bought our bread, we left the shop and dodged another huddle of marvellousers. Ruining the competent effect, we got wedged on a kerb and I tilted Little Fish nearly out of her chair as Mog giggled. Oh well, dignity never was anything I valued particularly highly.
And then we got home, and Little Fish got into a strop because Mog went into the house first. And she threw the shopping onto the ground. And then she poured macaroni onto the floor once inside, and then I realised her feed pump which had been unaccountably slow had reset itself to be running at 1ml/hour rather than 300. And then I discovered our cleaner has hidden our matches, so macaroni is definitely off the menu. And then I thought to myself "they're right, you know, I don't know how I do it".
*exciting when you are four. The thrill has palled somewhat for me these days