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.

Unexpected angels in our midst, even Gabriel!

A Christmassy Gabriel!

Everyone has their own favourite film at Christmas, from Elf, Love Actually and It’s a wonderful life. There are many films to choose from, and it seems important to enjoy them, especially with the latest locdown restrictions announced today. People are so worried about the virus, disappointed about their plans to see loved ones have now been cancelled, concerned about loved ones unwell or having the virus. We need some escapism, to help us to cope.

It’s a wonderful life, is particularly popular, as it reminds us that when we are questioning what our life is all about, that maybe God has used us to accomplish more than we know. Clarence the angel, is maybe not what we imagine angels to be like, but he appears just at the right time to save a life.

There are so many angelic appearances in the bible, and in the Christmas story, Gabriel the angel speaking to Zechariah in the temple, to Mary in the house, to Joseph in a dream. Angels are described as heavenly messangers, that stand in the very presence of God. They do the bidding of God, answering prayer, intervening in situations, revealing God’s will.

Especially in these days of difficult death statistics, restrictions and isolation, we pray for God to send His angels into this world- to remind the lonely person that they are not alone, to visit the despairing person in a hospital bed or prison cell, to remind that bereaved person or traumatised child that God wants to comfort them.

On the hillside, the angels praised God amongst the shepherds, and brought news of great joy for all people, for a Saviour was born to bring glory to God, and peace on earth. The purity of angels praising God must have been inspirational.

I believe that God still sends divine messengers to this earth, to encourage, to guide the lost, to be with the dying. Sometimes God might choose the most unlikely people to fulfil His purposes, unexpected angels are all around. And this brings us hope.

We know that in the new year, the various vaccines will be rolled out, and that this will make a difference. We know that these restrictions will not last forever. We know that the number of people ill with the virus will gradually lessen. There is much to be hopeful about.

Right now, as we look at the dark nights, and the rain drops rolling down the window pane, it is easy to feel down. May we know that God has not deserted His people, and that the angels still sing. May we notice the angels in our midst, the prayers said, the acts of kindness around, and may this strengthen us, and remind us that there are better days to come.

May we pray. Eternal Father, news of a new more spreadable variant of the virus, is hard to hear, and the new restrictions have curtailed so many plans to meet up at Christmas. Help us to remember that the first Christmas was tough too, a long journey, a birth of a child in less than ideal circumstances. Yet God provided for the holy family, and He provides for us today. Holy spirit, help us notice the angels in our midst, the heavenly singing, the prayer, the acts of kindness. And may we find peace, trusting in You, Amen 🙏

I’ll walk you to your car, lass.

Civility in the city.

Anniversaries are such strange things. You think you are prepared, but you seldom are. This month is the first anniversary of my father in law’s death, and it feels really emotional. He lived a long and full life, and he accomplished amazing things, but I still feel so very tearful at his death.

I used to visit him and his wife on a Sunday evening, and they always made us a meal, even when that should have been the last thing in the world they should have been thinking about. My mother in law would make a Sunday roast dinner for us, and took great pride in getting all the details right. How she cooked in that little scullery kitchen I will never know!

And then at the end of the evening, Tom would say to me ‘ I’ll walk you to your car, lass’. Everytime he said this, I would just be blown away. It was an old fashioned courtesy, offered as if it was so self evident that this was the only possible thing to do. They lived in the top flat, parking on the street was often difficult, and do with my parking skills, my car was often far away. But still he pull on his cap and jacket, and would accompany down the stairs. He would wave me out of my parking place, stopping the other traffic, just to make sure I got home ok.

That weekly courtesy was one of many, and just spoke of his kindness and manners. Even when he was less well, it took me all my time to stop him escorting me down the stairs, even when I protested that it was raining, and I didn’t want him to get wet.

Sometimes it is these little things that are so moving, so symbolic of his life, his thoughtfulness and humility and self effecting nature. Yet he also held strong views on politics, art and culture. He was incredibly witty, loved conversation and was stimulating company at dinner. He was an artist, with an independent vision and style. He was a brilliant husband, father in law, dad and grandpa. So sorely missed.

May we never take our loved ones for granted. May we take time to remember them, all the memories, good and bad, funny and poignant. May we have space to speak of them fondly, and to laugh and to reminisce. Every day is so precious.

In psalm 90 verse 12, the psalmist says : ‘ teach us to number our days, that we may gain a wisdom of the heart.’ Appreciating what we have, is just so vital, giving us thankful hearts, and puts all things in perspective.

Gracious God, our times are in your hands,and we are so grateful for all who have gone before us, who have shared their lives with us, who inspired us, and loved us. Lord Jesus, help us treasure all the ways You have blessed us, all the people who have shown us kindness. Holy Spirit, may the example of those who have gone before us, inspire us to live each day for good, that we may love and show compassion and thoughtfulness to others, and to seek to make this world a better place. Amen.