I admit, sometimes when I look at our world, and my own dreams as a person with a disability, I feel pretty hopeless. The economy remains stranded in the kitchen sink, and even if I get that elusive Real Job after this second round of grad school, I can’t firmly say when I will have a home of my own. I’ve been single for years, with only one real dating experience that came to nothing. And if “trusting God” means continuing to sit on my hands and wait, well, like so many before me (Sarah, Leah, Rachel, and Rebecca, I’m looking at you, Bible girls), then…
Fighting for my own dreams, and those of others, is no walk through Central Park. It’s tough. But if I–if we–give up, then where will we be? We will have let segregation win. We will have admitted that the only places we “belong” are “special” places–special classes, special housing, even special amusement parks, for crying out loud. And even if some of us do not consider ourselves “advocates,” or like me, are new at it, we cannot allow this to happen.
I own a series of devotional books by the lovely Sheri Rose Shepherd, in which Jesus writes to the female reader as His chosen princess. One of these, His Princess Warrior, is based heavily upon spiritual warfare, but I like to think it’s also based on showing women–and men, too–how to successfully, cleverly, and gracefully fight other battles in their lives. Pages 64-65 contains one of my favorite devotionals, based around my “life verse,” Jer. 29:11. It is titled “Hopelessness is an Illusion.”
The trouble with illusions, I think, is they so often look true. Think about it. For those of you who have attended a magic show of any kind, it looked real when that person disappeared or that magician drank hydrochloride acid, didn’t it? Even if you knew it wasn’t? Hopelessness works like that. And it gains casualties–yours truly included–every day. But we don’t have to stay down.
What about you? If you’re a person with a disability reading this–child, teen, adult, senior–is hopelessness stealthily creeping its way in? Are your teachers, coworkers, therapists, counselors, or others underestimating you? Are you being told what’s good for you and expected to swallow it, even if you don’t want to? You can stop. You can make them stop. And it starts with saying no.
Are you a parent or guardian of a child or young adult with a disability? Do you believe what the experts are telling you? Do the IEP and IHP goals seem meaningful, or do they read like gibberish? Is what’s written being ignored, and not done? Do you know your loved one is capable of more than what They (the “experts”) claim? If so, you can say no, too.
Civil Rights leaders got somewhere because they said “no.” No, we’re tired of hearing “not ready” and “stay in your ‘God-given’ place.” Women’s Rights leaders got somewhere because they said “no.” So did the righteous Gentiles and Resistance workers whose efforts saved Jews and other persecuted people from Nazi atrocities. So do the teachers, parents, and social workers who speak out against child abuse and neglect. Join them. This year, let’s stick it to hopelessness, who births so many other possibility murderers. Let’s make an effort to get people with disabilities real, accessible homes and jobs. Let’s stop paying people without disabilities to be “friends” with a person who has a disability. (Yes, it happens). Let’s stop telling people with disabilities that their diets need to be restricted, their every activities supervised, and their free time earned. (Yes, it happens). Let’s treat people with disabilities as though their differences can, and do, blend into real society as seamlessly as do differences such as skin color, religious preferences, and so forth. No, it won’t be perfect. But let’s do what we’re constantly telling people with disabilities to do:
WORK ON IT.
HOO-RAH! (With a salute to the U.S. Marines and other branches of military service for letting me–and us–borrow your terminology).