December 3rd is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This celebration, created by the United Nations, seeks to celebrate the over one billion people worldwide living with some kind of disability. Disability is so natural, that this number equals 15% or more of the total population of the world. We don’t celebrate disability, but the ability that is hidden within, and makes uniquely able all of those who live with a disability. Pause to remember those who are as whole in their human identity as everyone else, but can find themselves treated as lesser beings.
I’ve been sorting through papers and re-reading a TEAR magazine (2011) focussed on disability. Great articles.
A handful of memorable quotes…..
Of the 650 million people with disabilities in the world, a staggering 80% live in developing nations.
‘It always comes back to belonging. We have to discover more fully that the church is a place of compassion and fecundity*, a place of welcome and friendship. We need time to listen to and understand people with communication problems. It takes time to become a friend of people with disabilities. (Living Gently in a Violent World, by Jean Varnier with Stanley Hauerwas). (* fecundity – fruitfulness and the capacity to give life)
‘Those we lock away and think worthless have the power to teach and even to heal us” (Varnier). We are all ‘broken’ in some way. When you start living with people with disabilities, you begin to discover a whole lot of things about yourself’. Varnier learned that to ‘be human is to be bonded together, each with our own weaknesses and strengths, because we need each other’.
‘The more we can identify what is particularly true for us individually, the more we may discover that others are making similar journeys’. (Henri Nouwen)
Matt Anslow writes: ‘In his book Suffering Presence, Stanley Hauerwas insists upon the ‘tyranny of normality’, the idea that normality is dangerous for people with disabilities. Hauerwas writes, ‘The most stringent power we have over another is not physical coercion but the ability to have another accept our definition of them’. Indeed, this kind of ‘defining’ people is a hallmark of human society, which inevitably leads to those with social power being able to delegate the label of ‘the other’. What is the impact on people who are labelled in this way? What is the effect on those who are ‘normal’?
A prayer for all God’s people
Let us pray for all God’s people. For people who are blind and cannot see, and for those who can see but are blind to people around them.
Lord, in your mercy help us touch each other.
For people who move slowly because of accident, illness, or disability, and for those who move too fast to be aware of the world in which they live.
Lord, in your mercy help us work together.
For people who are deaf and cannot hear, and for those who can hear but who ignore the cries of others
Lord, in your mercy help us respond to each other.
For people who learn slowly, for people who learn in different ways, and for people who learn quickly and easily but often choose ignorance
Lord, in your mercy help us grow in your wisdom.
For people who have chronic illness for which there is no known cure or relief, and for people who live in unholy fear of developing a chronic illness.
Lord, in your mercy help us and heal us.
For families, friends, and caregivers who serve people with disabilities, and for those who feel awkward in their presence
Lord, in your mercy help us see each other with your eyes.
For people who think they are worthless and beyond your love, and for people who think they don’t need your love,
Lord, in your mercy help us accept your love.
For people who feel isolated by their disabilities, and for people who contribute to that sense of isolation
Lord, in your mercy change our lives.
For all the people in your creation, that we may learn to respect each other and learn how to live together in your peace.
Lord, in your mercy bind us together. Amen.
Kate Chipps, adapted by Ginny Thornburgh