It was a small moment, and one I have thought about for several weeks. As I was stopped at a traffic light heading home from work one afternoon, I noticed two young men pushing a wheelchair up a steep hill. In the wheelchair was a third young man, whose arms rested unmoving on his lap. They were all talking as they moved forward, but I could see the strain of their push up the incline.
I wondered idly where they were coming from – two hospitals are within blocks. Who is the young man and how did he end up in a wheelchair? As the light changed, they had reached the top of the hill and one of the friends opened the door so the wheelchair could be rolled into the corner store. They had reached their destination.
I had driven a block before I realized that the corner store was a tattoo studio. They were going to get tattoos. It seemed so improbable.
Did the young man in the wheelchair want a tattoo? His body was probably much more subject to scrutiny and examination than the rest of ours. Maybe he just wanted to decorate it. Or add some words that had special meaning for him. Certainly he would not have made the difficult journey to that shop just to watch, so he was getting some kind of tattoo.
Perhaps the three young men — in my mind they were childhood friends — had decided to all get tattoos as a sign of their long brotherhood. Maybe the one in the wheelchair had gotten bad news, and the others wanted to cheer him up.
I will never know who they are or what was behind that long trip up the hill, but there seemed to be something sacred about their trip. It was friends being together, doing something many young men do.
I am not a fan of tattoos. At 58, I am beyond the age where that has any appeal and the permanency of it makes me think of it as a mistake. But now those young men have given me a new image of tattoos. We are all children of God and marked with God’s love in a permanent way deep in our very selves. “I have called you by name”¦You are mine.”When I think of those three young men, I see a sacred love between them. One or more of them will be forever marked and they will all remember a day when their love for each other made them take the trip up the hill.
In some ways tattoos are all the more an incredible decision when the permanence,health-risk and the forever nature are all considered. When all these factors are weighed and the person or group feels so strongly that such an action would fill a void-this is Spirit talking. Sometimes we don’t understand the why of the tattoo. I have seen them carry legacy,symbolize love,as in having ring tattoos at a wedding instead of real ring which can be taken off. Again,I think it is what your intent is-is it positive or negative? Your choices say much about your values.
When my son went travelling he had a tattoo done of a Cross on his chest. He said it was not as a fashion statement but because of what it represent d to his family. I hope it has meant something to him in these past 10 years.
When my Dad died in 2003 my son also had Dad’s initials tattooed on his ankle , I know that was out of love and admiration for the bestest of Grandad’s.
There is a certain madness to the world of tattoos. My father and two older brothers, all veterans and all inked, use to threaten me with grievous harm if I go inked. Go figure! So after burying them all, I did it. No regrets. Today, having read about the “Francis”effect and then about tats, I can only wonder at how deep is the marking that Jesus has “inked”on Francis’ soul that it radiates so much love for all of God’s people. The Lord has truly engraved him in the palm of His hand.
They likely were afraid you’d get sick from an unclean needle — disinfection is a recent thing. For instance during WW2 they inoculated the lined up and bare shouldered incoming soldiers with the same needle: dip shoot, dip shoot, dip shoot. They got sick and nobody then would figure out how.
I just read this wonderful post and most of all it struck me that it was wonderful because it did not brand tattoos as sinful! Thank you.
Right, tattoos lack the composition to be sinful. They are skin dye. A parallel, you can use wood to make a cross or you can use it to make a Ouiji board. It’s all in the way it’s used.
Having said that tattoos, because they are dye and dye goes into the bloodstream, are not safe.
To be rooted for the love and faith of God, to be judged by others because you are following a secret path for the service of God and mankind was just a tattoed put on the skin never to be erased for life. Sometimes, our life can be likekened to these. But the truth is, this is very scary for me to follow and do it. I don’t know, God know. Today, I just want to lift up to God what had just went through to our city. Last night there was a blast of bomb in the nearby that killed 26 and wounded constituents anf this morning somebody texted me asking for help to feed her family who has nothing to eat. I felt sad because i have not a penny to give her needs and can’t go out to met her because I don’t even know her in the first place.
How can I put Jesus tattoe here on my body? Ah, he knows what is best for me and the people I longed to help. In the dipths of my mind and heart, I could put the tattoe of his cross to offer my prayers
Ophelia, we cannot always help everybody, don’t feel guilty about not being able to help that woman when you had no money yourself. Pray for her, but don’t feel guilty. God Bless.
A wonderful story, Maureen. I am still pondering the scene you described. Didn’t I read somewhere that God inscribes our names onto the palms of his hands? Do you think those are tattoos?
Yes. Love is the ink.
Love is the ink. Love it!!!!!!
Lord, I am too quick to judge others. Let me look for the good instead of the negative.
I can add my own Amen to that prayer!
I love how you ‘imagined’ their story in a way that was nourishing to your own sense of friendship and God working in their lives and yours, putting an Ignatian slant on what was probably a momentary experience. Thank you for this thought-provoking essay.
Thanks, Barbara. It felt like a gift to see it with new eyes.
Maureen, as I read this beautiful post I was reminded of the friends who lowered the man through the roof to reach Jesus – the determination and the love for their friend.
Thank you for this inspirational start to my day.
That’s a great analogy – it was very much like the men lowering through their friend the roof. Thanks for that connection.