AUSTIN — Ginny McCallum, 43, who has been confined to a wheelchair for much of her adult life, came to hear presidential candidate Barack Obama speak at the University of Texas. Afterward she found herself in a wheelchair access breezeway as Obama and his entourage exited the arena. The candidate spotted her, came over, grabbed her hand and pulled her up. She found herself standing for the first time in eleven years. "He smiled at me and said, ‘Yes, you can,’" she says. "I was so stunned I didn’t know what to do."
McCallum is among hundreds of people who say they have been healed by the Democratic candidate, in one of the most surprising and little-acknowledged aspects of his campaign. Reporters have shied away from the story, chalking it up to "Obama-mania" and people’s feelings of elation.
"We don’t talk about it a lot, but yeah, it does happen," says one staffer who says he has seen multiple people healed on a rope line. "We don’t know exactly how or why it’s happening, and the Senator won’t talk about it. He usually insists that people keep it quiet and just report it to their pastor or priest."
Greeting supporters after a rousing speech in Houston, Obama stepped into the dense crowd and spontaneously began touching people: a legally blind woman, a man deaf in one ear, a cancer sufferer and a lame man.
"Yes, you can," Obama said as he laid hands on afflicted bodies.
The people’s reactions were so joyous as to be almost frightening. They jumped and shouted and wept. Before they could thank or embrace the candidate he was well down the rope line healing others. Their excitement was lost in the general din of the crowd.
Aides acknowledge that the phenomenon is occurring with greater frequency. "His power goes beyond simple inspiration," says one aide. "There is something developing here that I’m not sure any of us fully understands."
They say Obama has told them privately that his time has not yet come, so it would be inappropriate to talk about the healings right now. He says he will wait until the convention to speak publicly about the "special calling" he believes he has to lead the country. They do expect him to start alluding to "the providential nature of what is happening on the campaign trail" in an upcoming address, mostly because word is getting around. People have begun bringing relatives by the score to campaign events in hopes of a healing touch.
"It’s not the speeches that are drawing people anymore, as good as they are," says a senior staff member. "It’s people wanting to get better, and wanting their friends and relatives to get better. It’s the belief that there’s something more here."
****************************************Sorry, Senator. I just couldn't resist. It is April Fools Day, after all.