Anger and advocacy!

Let’s be angry!

At times in today’s world, the danger is that we can feel a little numb, a little detached. Sometimes however, we can allow ourselves to feel- to hear another person’s story, and in our imagination to feel we are going through it with them, and to identify with their emotions. It could be listening to the person on the train, or a magazine article, some words from the family next door, or a person on the other side of the globe.

Some stories are about people who have overcome, who are settled and at peace, and we are thankful for these. Other people are in such pain and weariness, that it can be hard to listen. Just now, there seem to be so many stories of terror and loss-

The family in which some one has a disability, and whose support services have been cut because of the pandemic, people who have become more isolated and lost skills and confidence.

The prisoners, languishing in prison, although they have done nothing wrong – people like the Chinese Christian Gao Zhisheng, whose work as a human rights lawyer has resulted in him disappearing in 2017, and he has not been seen since.

And we think of the terrified in Afghanistan, as the Taliban reassert control, the cries of the vulnerable, of women and children fleeing from.rhe brutality and lawlessness of their rule.

How do we respond to these heartbreaking situations. Well maybe, just maybe, we should be angry! We should be angry that people with disabilities and mental health issues seem to be at the bottom of the pile in our society. We should be indignant that human rights lawyers, who courageously speak out for others, can disappear with so many people turning a blind eye. We should be furious that in so many lands, the rights of women and children are non existent.

To be healthy, we cannot focus on all these issues all the time. However to pretend they are not happening, is not the answer either.

As we listen to the cries of these individuals, we should be angry that they suffer so much, and so many do so little. But hopefully it is not the kind of anger that breaks dishes, but rather the kind of anger that we ask God to channel into a constructive energy for advocacy and action.

In Ephesians chapter 4 verse 26, it says: ” in your anger, do not sin.” We are allowed to be angry- it is what we do with it that matters. Jesus Himself was angry- about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, or the greed of the money changers in the temple. So he spoke out against that which was wrong.

In Proverbs 31:8-9 it says: ‘ Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute’. Part of our calling as Christians, as human beings, is to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, or those who are not being listened to.

When we are touched by what has happened to some one, and have become indignant, whether it is the plight of the homeless, the story of the woman who has been human trafficked, or the lonely person in a hospital bed, may we channel these feelings of sadness and frustration into something good, to lobby for funding, for advocacy, for change. It might only be the words of a prayer, or writing to our MP, or giving to a charity, but every little helps.

Gracious God, we remember the roar of Aslan in C S Lewis’s novels, conveying the power and majesty of God. You are the God of justice, and You long for justice and fairness. Yet on this earth so many suffer- trauma, ill treatment, sexual exploitation and brutality. Forgive us for the times we turn away. Lord Jesus, help us be angry when another human being is treated without dignity or respect. And may your holy spirit helps us channel that anger wisely, to pray, to give, to be advocates for those on trouble. Give us energy to do this, and to be courageous in seeking to make this a more just world, Amen.

The frustration of invisible disabilities

Hidden dangers?

Disabilities, things we struggle to do, for whatever reason, can be so frustrating. They can be seen or unseen – but still hugely significant to the individual involved. My late husband for example, had a problem with proprioception – estimating depth. This sounds like a small thing, but it meant he had issues doing something as simple as pouring tea, because he would overfill it, and the burning liquid would go everywhere. It also affected his gait, as he couldn’t tell when his foot would hit the ground, so he would be uncertain of each footstep, and more likely to fall.

I have been listening to people with disabilities recently, and some of the indignities endured. We think we are a modern inclusive society, but if you have ever used a wheelchair you discover that this is not true. A floor is uneven, a pavement kerb is too high, and even a disability friendly toilet, doesn’t seem to mean you can turn round in a wheelchair. There are so many obstacles to keeping your dignity. The only consolation, is that there are also many kind people who are ready to help out and go the extra mile.

For disabilities not able to be seen, the issues are just as distressing. Whether it is a neurological condition or a lung problem, or any one of many health conditions, people are often not noticing or dismissive. We live in a society that is often so judgemental. A person I knew with Parkinsons for example, was often treated as if they were drunk, and given no help if in difficulty.

People shouldn’t have to be expected to explain themselves in order to be treated with respect. There are perhaps some practical possibilities of dealing with specific situations. One person talked of having to go out of a cafe to the toilet for example, and they come back and their table with their fresh coffee and not eaten food is cleared. Can we have a nationally recognised card, to leave, to secure a place in a queue or at a table? We need better training too, with people perhaps having to spend a day in a wheelchair to see just what it is like.

In general, the deeper question is how to change people’s awareness and attitudes, to become a kinder more compassionate society. Then if we see some one struggle, instead of ignoring them, we ask how we might be supportive. It might be we can’t do anything, but the knowledge of a sympathetic person can go a long way.

In Colossians 3:12b it says:                              ” you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”      

This is the best way to live, to choose every morning to be kind and compassionate, to show the same mercy and patience as Christ has shown to us.

Gracious God, forgive us that we often react to people who seem different with fear or prejudice. We are too quick to judge someone who takes their time, or is boisterous. Lord Jesus forgive our lack of curiosity and patience. Teach us how to love, with the mercy and forgiveness You show us. May your holy spirit give us insight, and to teach us how to accept and value others, as beautifully as You do us, Amen.