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  • Writer's pictureLaura Hewett

Benches

Shout out to my two amazing friends who on absurdly short notice agreed to hop in the car and go on a weekend adventure with me.


This weekend was BFA's high school retreat, so there were no classes, and for teachers who don't lead a small group, we had some margin to mark papers and enjoy a long weekend. I'd texted a couple friends to ask if they were up for an adventure - and what an adventure we had. Friday morning we hopped in the car and drove to a new city - new country for me too, in fact. I've lived in Europe for a long time, but there are still loads of places not that far that I've yet to visit. I crossed Amsterdam off the list after spending a fantastic day hanging out with two of my favourite people drinking good coffee and eating allergy friendly avocado toast before laughing at the nerdiest bench in the world.


I'd had a couple tense moments in class this past week as students navigated conversations about controversial topics, and I'm really proud of the growth I've seen in them though there's plenty of room to keep growing. I'm also grateful for the margin I have in my life to give myself a weekend of rest with belly laughs and deep conversations. It was just what I needed, and I spent every second fully present as we navigated a new place at a relaxed pace. My friends didn't even bat an eye when a museum and a restaurant we wanted to visit were both completely inaccessible; we just moved on to the next thing. Everything was a bonus since none of us had plans (except for that nerd bench I wanted to take a picture with). We all got a good laugh out of my movie moment and making Hannah accidentally recreate a movie moment when she just wanted to explore the top of a grassy hill. We also talked about how much we love Jesus and how we want to encourage our students to love Jesus; I'm really grateful to have coworkers like these incredible women.


We didn't actually stay at the bench that long because it was cold and drizzly, and we had better things to do like go to the wrong museum (which ended up being the accessible one anyways). Meandering through the modern art in that particular collection was not the most inspiring, but it was a break, a chance to breathe, a moment to slow my pace and be present with different things. I surprised myself by liking the works of Piet Mondrian possibly more than anything else I saw yesterday. "Lozenge with Two Lines" had more to say to me with its crisp simplicity than I ever imagined two lines could. (Then again, "Five Words In Orange Neon" is my second favourite piece in the whole PAM permanent collection.) It was something I hadn't seen presented before; it made me look at things from a different perspective and contemplate them on purpose.


My life is a bit askew like the Lozenge series of canvases; I can't walk or navigate spaces the same as able bodied people. Here's the thing about navigating this new city and why my friends matter so much: I didn't sit on the bench because transferring from the wheelchair wasn't worth it, but we skipped the restaurant because my spasming legs couldn't handle the seven steps to get inside. For some reason, my feet were struggling to settle down and let me sleep in the hotel bed (also the pillows were awkward). This morning as we headed out, we stopped to eat at this delicious place called The Breakfast Club, and the waitress pointed to the bathroom when I asked without thinking about how it was impossible for me to fit my chair through the door. I managed a weird halfway into the bathroom situation where the un-lockable outer door was at least closed though I couldn't shut the second door with my wheelchair in the way and needed to parkour my way to the toilet. I'd also had to parkour in the staff bathroom of the fun cafe yesterday that was cramped with a broken bookshelf that didn't allow for any margin of error entering or exiting in a straight line rubbing my fingers along the sink and clutter. There were inconveniences aplenty, but none of them came close to ruining this delightful trip.


One of the things I really love about conversations with Hannah and Amanda is conversations about when I walk again. When. Not if. When I walk again. "This will be a whole lot easier when I can walk again," I repeated at several different points the past few days. They heartily agreed as they helpfully loaded or unloaded my wheelchair into the car or opened doors for me or pushed me up spots of steep, slick bricks. I'll forever treasure so many moments from this weekend like the fruity line or the tutti fruity Titanic or prepping our go-to karaoke songs, and those moments aren't touched by my lack of ability. I'm also looking forward to dancing in the rain with Hannah and Amanda when I can walk again.


I'll head to school tomorrow to talk to my students about how they respond to Scripture, and hopefully they'll be energised by the shared truths they've heard at the retreat this weekend that they want to apply to their lives. I'll metaphorically get off my weekend "bench" resting my soul regardless of my physical condition, but I'm also praying for the miracle to get up and sit on any physical bench without the hindrance of nerve damage.



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