I belong to a woman clergy support group—we’ve been meeting for a while now, every two weeks usually. Sharing our lives together and the challenges and deep joys of ministry helps us all. I look forward to being with these friends every time. Last week when we closed our time together with prayer—each of us offering prayers for another or others in the group, one of my friends prayed for my physical safety—that I would be safe as I ride about town on my new scooter. She prayed for me to be alert and careful and protected. This was good. Scooter riding makes one aware of how vulnerable we are. Her prayer made me stop and reflect on the spiritual gifts I’ve received from just a short time of scootering.

When I retired last fall I set only a few goals for myself—perhaps because I have experienced more than once the truth in that old saying that “if you want to know what makes God laugh, make plans.” In any case one of my goals was to become like a child in learning new things. I wished for the joy of learning something new. I wanted to do things I hadn’t learned to do so well that they’d almost become rote. I wanted to open myself to being taught by others. That’s one of the reasons I took a folk dance class—and I certainly achieved my goal there. My feet are still in kindergarten for sure.

So another adventure into newness is my scooter. I had decided months before I retired that I wanted to get a scooter—not a big deal Harley you understand, a scooter for scooting about town and maybe to nearby towns on back roads. When I told my friends they expressed either enthusiasm or outright horror. There wasn’t much in between. I wasn’t able to buy a scooter until recently given all the other changes going on in my life. But now it’s summer and the price of gas keeps going up and it’s actually hard to find a scooter to buy where I live. But I found one and I love it.

One of my friends pointed out that I probably wouldn’t save any money riding a scooter around town since I drive a hybrid which is pretty much battery-operated in town—this forced me to confess that I wanted one just for the fun of it. Just to be a child again—to learn something new—enter a different world. See if I could slow down and see things from a different vantage point.

Riding around I have already learned some things. The first is how vulnerable I am on my scooter—made mostly out of plastic—wearing helmet, gloves, jacket, boots over my ankles, jeans. Sounds like a lot of protection, but it isn’t really when you are surrounded by cars and buses. Now of course in my head I know how vulnerable I am and we all are—really. Everyday. Part of being human is our vulnerability. And Jesus modeled the vulnerable life in his living and dying. His openness to the choices and actions of others, his receptivity to those around him. His standing in silence before Pilate who asked him, “What is truth?” He made no comment, just stood there in the truth of who he was. That’s the power of vulnerability. The truth of it. To be human is to be vulnerable—there is no escaping it. But, we Americans tend to live life as though we were invincible and not subject to the fragilities of life. When we come up against our vulnerability we are shocked. It probably has to do mostly with money—with our being able to use it to protect and control (we think). When you’re poor with no options for using money to build walls and gates or buy medical insurance you can be very aware of your vulnerability. But, it is also a part of our culture I think. In other countries where I’ve lived there seemed to me to be more awareness of human limits and fragility than we allow ourselves ordinarily.

Vulnerability is something I want in my spiritual life. I want to live with an open heart, receptive to the divine. I want to be vulnerable to the Spirit—not so protected and defended that nothing and no one can get past my armor. Every ride I take reminds me of this commitment I have to living into vulnerability.

Another great gift of scootering is that when I’m on my scooter I have to be very very attentive. Because of my so very clear vulnerability I know that I have to be watching and listening with great focus. I see things on my scooter I never saw before, and from a different angle. I am present in a way I usually am not in the car. I am mindful. Partly because I’m still learning and still a child at this I am aware of how slowed down I am. Just getting the helmet and other gear on and getting ready to ride takes time and attention (it hasn’t become habitual yet). I am present. That too is something I long for in my spiritual life—being fully present to God and to all of life. Showing up in the fullest sense. Attending to. Living and riding consciously. Slowing down to be present.

On my scooter I am deeply aware of how dependent I am on others—on the courtesy of others. This is something I sometimes think about when I’m in my car—but on my scooter I am never in doubt about it. The driver who can’t stand to be behind a scooter that is traveling at the speed limit—who races up and then passes over the double yellow line—the driver who waves me on to turn left in front of him—the road worker with the stop sign who grins at me when I manage to stop in time for him to lead the dump truck backing across the road. People stop and talk to me when I’m parking or even stopped at a light. People who would have never talked to me before are friendly. We’re all in it together and I know it. This is a great thing to know. I want to keep learning that in all aspects of my life. Keep living into the oneness that we share underneath all our divisions and differences. Maybe my scooter will help me in this.

And of course there are scary times on the scooter—when I know that my lack of skill has almost got me into trouble—when I see how absolutely unconsciously some people are on the road—when a big rock plonks on to my helmet face guard, when someone opens a car door and gets out right in front of my path—the list goes on and on. I’m a bit more aware of the edginess of life on my scooter, and can feel my heart race. The exhilaration is there, too—the wind on my face, the beauty of the place. All are gifts that remind me I am alive and a part of God’s creation. Riding my scooter puts me much more in my body than driving a car or riding the bus. I have to be in my body to be able to ride—and that of course is how I want to live all my days. In my body: the place where I live and encounter the divine.

And then there is the childlike state I am in with my scooter right now. One of my granddaughters who is 8 wants me to take her for a ride. Her mother does not share this desire at all. And fortunately for all of us the State of California isn’t ready to give me permission to take on riders. But the other day she came over and just crawled up on it while it was parked. She imagined herself riding—maybe flying for all I know. I want to live with that kind of imagination and openness to new things. It’s a spiritual calling.

I’m sure I could receive these spiritual lessons in other ways—on a bike, jogging, walking. . . there are infinite possibilities. But for me right now my scooter is my teacher.