Saturday, 8 November 2014

My Reflections....

It was disability day at church today. I do enjoy most sermons, but I found today’s sermon particularly inspirational. It touched the very core of my soul. And so I thought I will share my thoughts with you.


When we look at people who are/appear different from us, what do we see? What flicks into our minds? Do we judge them by appearance? Do we approach them with a pre-conceived understanding of who they are, what they represent or where they are coming from?

More often than not we regard disabled persons (all forms) as individuals to be pitied. When they are going about their business, be it in wheelchairs or appear awkward or uncoordinated or incoherent than we are, we jump to their aid, at times take over; because we believe and/or are convinced that they can’t cope, therefore, need us. There is nothing at all wrong with helping or wanting to care for the ones we consider to be vulnerable. But there are times when we need to take a step back and let them get on with it as our help could be doing more harm than good.

Have you ever stopped to consider that, perhaps, for someone who has endured years of physiotherapy, psychotherapy, encouragement and/or persuasion, to be able to move, crawl from A to B, feed themselves, read a word or two, whatever, is a precious achievement, and is indeed something to be celebrated and cherished! A sacred territory not to be tampered with? That stammer that riddles their speech, or the quiver of their hand when they make a squiggle of their name is just them getting on with it. 

Eating may be a doddle for you and I, but of what consequence is it to us if it takes them a bit longer to move a spoon from hand to mouth? They are only living their life the best way they know how. Why pity them because of it? Why take away their pride, dignity and independence? Why make them feel less equal and less worthy than others? We alter our body language and speak in condescending tones (well done dear, you're so lovely, that's good etc) just to let them know that we recognise how different from us they are. It got to stop!

A story was told about a disabled boy who thought had found a good friend during his years of primary school. When primary school ended, on the very last day, the friend walked up to his disabled friend and told him he had a confession to make; and they had the following conversation:

‘I have something to tell you,’ said the friend.
‘Go ahead,’ said the disabled boy.
‘I don’t really like you that much,’ he said, ‘I was just pretending to be nice to you because, well let’s face it, you’re in a wheelchair and you can’t really be nasty towards someone who is disabled.’
So you can imagine the shock and horror that resulted from this revelation. 
After having composed himself, the disabled boy said,

‘Just because I’m disabled doesn't mean that I am different from everybody else. You didn't have to pretend to like me simply because I am in a wheelchair……’

The tendency we have is to judge people by the way they look, heap them in a category or give them labels. We pity the disabled because our brain has been wired, or we have been socialised to view disabled persons as helpless beings not capable or deserving of an independent and fulfilling life. We can't accept or phantom the fact that they could actually be leading a full life just as they are.


As you can see from the illustration above the revelation by the disabled boy’s ‘good friend’ was, indeed, the greatest deception you can imagine. Not only that, it also demonstrates ignorance and as the narrator of the story explained, it left a huge scar on the disabled boy. A scar which will set him back and take years to heal.


Food for thought, I think....

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