God Bless us, Everyone: Grace and Disability

Merry Christmas, readers,

The title of this post is, of course, the famous quote from one of my favorite stories, A Christmas Carol. Every Christmas since I was old enough not to be too scared, my dad and I have watched the George C. Scott version of the movie (1984) on Christmas Eve. I owned the children’s illustrated version of the book, and have seen other versions, including a couple of good animations and one starring the Muppets. I don’t have a “grown-up” version of the novel, but it’s on my list. 🙂

Now, most of you probably remember who said that great quote: Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit’s youngest, who happened to have a disability. Now, the portrayal of this character makes me cringe–he’s saintly, sickly, and basically written around the fact he uses a crutch. But in that era, that portrayal was pretty commonplace. And I’d like to suggest that Dickens, whose novels were often written to call attention to the plight of the poor and disadvantaged in his London, made a great point with Tiny Tim. You never know what wisdom, and what gifts, are hidden under the “disability wrapping paper.”

Furthermore, as I was recently reminded, a person with a disability, like me, never knows what’s hidden beneath the “temporarily able-bodied wrapping paper.” Our world, being the cold, bitter place it is (just look at Newtown, CT), has a tendency to draw all kinds of “us” and “them” lines. Sometimes that line is between rich and poor. Or white and black, or male and female. Or able-bodied, and disability. And as someone who stands on the, shall we say, “have not” side of that line, it’s easy for me to think, “Why would an able-bodied person ever show me grace on a consistent basis?”

But they do. Oh, they do.

I was reading a devotional the other night written by a woman who struggles with physical disabilities and uses a cane. She wrote about problems with her car, and how she had already been forced to make the trek to the DMV twice that week, to stand in the “inevitable long lines.” She had to psyche herself up for trip number three. I was expecting a devotional about how God enabled her to keep standing, or how she felt His love despite what some jerk did while she was in line. In my mind, the idea that anyone would be kind to this woman was laughable–like telling me there really is a Santa Claus.

Well, call me a female Scrooge. Because that’s not what happened. Instead, upon seeing this woman come in, the DMV clerk called her to the front of the line. And when she was directed to go stand in another line, a young man got her a chair with the explanation, “This might be easier for you.”

Okay. I didn’t need a visit from any spirit–except perhaps of the Holy variety–to get the point. Yes, there is grace in disability. And mercy, and kindness, and all the virtues of Christmas. The problem is, sometimes my low expectations, or just my pride (because I hate being constantly asked if I need help) get in the way of my receiving such grace. So I’m challenging myself, and others: if you have a disability, is there a way you can reach out to take grace offered today? And if you are a temporarily able-bodied person who has any length of an encounter with a person who has a disability, what is a way you can extend grace?

The grace and peace of the One who makes the lame walk and the blind see to all.

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