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.