I got dung on my hand.
Bad dung. I almost gagged. It was the worst thing ever. The feel of it, the smell, the texture, the knowledge that even though I cleaned it off a million times on the grass, I knew it would still be there. Lingering, long after I couldn’t see it any more. Life would be tricky now. The smear would fill my thinking and haunt my head, at least for a while. Whatever I did it would be there, cloying, contaminating my being and doing. Every so often the sour smell, whether real or imagined, would rise up and filter through the walls I built.
I scraped a good ten times, for a good five minutes. Different bits of grass, different patches of earth, till I found some water and doused my palm again and again and again. I was still desperately trying to clean up when I heard the step. A single step. And I saw the shoes, coated in grime and slime. Slowly I looked up, my eyes tracing the smattered figure. A man coated in filth. Yet smiling.
He reached down and I hesitated to take his hand, but in the end something compelled me. He raised me up and we talked and the talking became a smile and the smile laughter. For a while I forgot my trouble and by the time he walked away I was a little different. So was he, with every step the stains on him seemed to fade, somehow replaced with a kind of gleam and a bright hue. I looked at my hand. And I thought about his presence. He’d gone and yet he hadn’t.
Later that day I met him, the guy who had slipped in another pile of dung, and was heartbroken about the state of his jeans. We sat together for a long time, eventually, very eventually, after a protracted time, laughing about it. Two casualties swapping stories. I knew. He knew. The shame, the abhorrence, the failure, the regret. I dropped some hints about the besmirched man I had met, but only hints. I’m a cautious type. I hoped he might have the encounter himself.
We eventually got up to fight another day, taking tentative steps at first, intent on never slipping up again, yet somehow knowing this might well be wishful thinking.
Two failures limping home, bantering, urging each other on.
2 Corinthians 1 v 4