Whenever my family is at Church, I feel like perhaps we are a bit of a freak show. Lord have mercy, but those are my feelings. We like to sit down front, so that the kids aren't as distracted by the mayhem around them, and can see the icons and hear the prayers better. Yes, the nave is that large.
But I've always been a front row kind of gal. I was the kid in school who sat up front right under the teacher's nose, and at our old parish we had our spot, close to the front on the left hand side, right under the Theotokos' nose.
At. St. Michael's we are on the right hand side. Right smack dab in front of Jesus (well, his icon at any rate).
But for the past several weeks I've not managed to stay there the entire service. Any parent of young children knows what it's like to have to take a child out during the service.
My kids aren't young, but I often still have to take a child out during the service. Week after week after week. And so we are in the narthex, in a parish that is still largely filled with people who are strangers to me. I feel like they know who I am because I'm the lady with the special needs daughter who has to go out of Church every Sunday and sit on the bench outside by the Incarnation icon and settle her down and then go to the bathroom for tissues and a face wash. We get sympathic looks and head nods. The same anonymous parents who are taking the same toddlers for a potty trip and the same older guys out for a mid-liturgy smoke (I don't judge). Sympathetic looks from teenagers whose names I don't know and whose names my own teenagers don't know.
I feel like we are, mostly, the untouchables.
Not that it's true. I have plenty of friends at Church. I am known and I know people. Just not everyone. And that's hard.
Part of the asceticism of my situation, then, is for me not to assume that I know what is in people's hearts. In a large parish it is impossible to know everyone within the span of two years. Having special needs kids that keeps them and me out of the normal loop of normal youth group activities and Church activities makes it all the more difficult.
But just because I don't know people doesn't mean they are mean, or that they are thinking bad things about us. Perhaps (and I will assume this to be true) people I don't even know are praying for us. And perhaps I can get beyond my own little word, and learn to pray for them, too. At any rate, I am learning to assume the best of people, even when all my vulnerabilites are out there for the world to see. And that is a good lesson.