The reason we never sit in the front row of a show is the inevitable request to the audience, “I’m looking for a volunteer.”
The reaction of virtually everyone was the same… Look away… Don’t make eye contact… Sit completely still and don’t appear that you can be separated from the herd…
Everyone except Anthony. Anthony’s hand shot in the air with all the enthusiasm of Arnold Horshak on a re-run of Welcome Back Kotter. “Oh! Oh! Oh!”
I was sitting up in the balcony well out of the “accidental volunteer zone,” and it seemed everyone around me knew Anthony.
“Look at Anthony.”
“Anthony wants to volunteer.”
“I don’t think the juggler sees Anthony.”
Thus began the cheer from the cheap seats. “Pick Anthony! Pick Anthony!”
I never actually met Anthony, but I knew of Anthony almost immediately when my husband and I took a recent fall New England cruise. Whether it was our fellow dinner companions, casual conversations in the gym, or chatting with fellow passengers on tours, it seemed everyone knew Anthony.
“Have you met Anthony yet? “
“Oh, you will!”
I’m sure there are many things Anthony can’t do. Frankly, I don’t care about those things. There are plenty of things I can’t do either so that just makes us even. A young adult in his mid-twenties, he was gregarious, friendly and everyone who talked about him thought he was great and had a funny story to tell. He sat in the front row at every show, always starting a standing ovation and blowing kisses to the dancers. Anthony was a unifier. Anthony was a cheerleader. Anthony was everyone’s friend. Our tablemates hung out with Anthony a good bit since their cabin was close to his and I always enjoyed hearing the stories that started, “Guess what Anthony did today.”
I suppose one of the favorite things about my vacation was that I got to experience a place called acceptance. No one focused on what was different about Anthony, but rather what was great about him. It reminds me of Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth where they played favorites and he reminded him that we are all in it together.
As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. (1Corinthians 12:20-26 NRSV)
Paul reminds us how to get it right. Everyone belongs. Everyone has a gift to share. It was a pleasure to see that lived out among my fellow passengers. The trip would have been less without Anthony. I’m glad God picked us to be on his ship.
Holy God, thank you for Anthony and the way that you have gifted him. May all those who share his unique abilities find a place called acceptance. Amen.
Image courtesy of “Hand Reach to Sky” by samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net