Sunday, January 4, 2015

"Can I pray for you?"

As I left the grocery store today, a woman stopped me. "I wanted to ask you how do you feel about your disability"- she said- "I noticed that some people don't like to talk about it all and are offended if you bring it up. If you ask if they need help, they get offended again. They say they can do everything on their own and the idea that someone might see them as not capable is hurtful. I just wanted to ask if I can pray with you". "I'd love to have have time to discuss it"- I replied politely - "But I'm in a rush to get to the bus". It was the last run home and at that point of my day I usually have 15 minutes to cross the street and roll up to the stop. I was also eager to get out of this weather because the wind was picking up again and having trusted the forecast on my phone I didn't bring a rain coat. The lady then walks along with me - and it was clear it wasn't her originally intended direction - and we're having a conversation. I told her I was all over the spectrum when it comes to how I feel about my disability. I used to mind when people kept asking. Now I don't as much as they used to. It's obviously something that some have interest in. For the most part now I politely explain.  You can say it's all I know. But- Just because I was born with it, doesn't mean I never saw how people looked at me or knew there were things I'd never get to do. And at a very young age too. It's of course different from what people who make running and walking a vital part of their lives, but it doesn't mean I don't feel it or have an opinion about it.  I told her I've been frustrated, and a peace with it, I've been all over the spectrum, and how and what I think changes over time as I grow and change. I liked that unlike many people who start off by saying "Can I pray with you", she didn't insist on teaching me about the Bible or followed up with "Have you heard about Jesus". And that happens a lot. She wanted to know about me instead. How I react to things, how I see them and how I feel. And she didn't presume to know a single thing about me. I don't mind when people approach to me to pray, although yes, the underlying reason is they saw me, in their mind I needed fixing and in their mind they came to fix me. But then I see it mostly as something that helps them rather than me and also their way to send positivity and kindness, hopefully with no judgment implied.   I told her about that one incident when a group of energetic well meaning college girls saw me on the street, got me in the circle and prayed for me. They were determined to get me to walk right there and then and instead of something nice they were doing for someone else it quickly became intense and all about them. One girl was so disappointed that God didn't raise me out of my chair despite her repeated pleas that she almost started to cry. And- as I explained to the woman- the point of it was that I was fine. I'm fine the way I am, and be it in a wheelchair and without I will always be fine. I may not always like it, but I'll be fine with it. She asked - so I told her about the non profit that I run. She said that when she was in school for physical therapy they made her take classes on the ADA. I replied- that one of the hardest things coming from the law background is that people don't understand that disability legislation is not just some formality that they should get around if they can if they do. That there needs to be more education about how it promotes inclusion, how it affects entire groups of people and their lives. I told her, that the law is the law, but so are traffic violations and anti-loitering regulations people don't identify with and support. I said I need to preach the ADA as a relatable human experience, not from the point of law, but from the point of understanding, otherwise there always will be those who try to hide their noncompliance or get around the regulations. The basic premise is that it's not there to make you miserable, it's there because it helps people. I told her that I started the Foundation to get through with the notion that people with disabilities are just like you. We all have dreams and goals and aspirations and we are part of your communities. Help us excel. Out of that frustration a non profit was born. She then asked me if she could pray for me tonight because she'd like to do it anyway. I said it's a busy a challenging time for us, trying to get this bigger than life concept off the ground - so I'd appreciate any positive influence and energy. As the bus came we said goodbye and she walked in the other direction.

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