Friday, September 21, 2007

The Grace of Living with a Disability

I see the grace in my disabled friends every day. I'm not talking about them being inspirational, because this is different. I'm talking about living with grace and about God giving us grace. Both are true.

I'm firmly convinced that the reason many people who shy away from disabled people do so is because they see a deficit, not the grace. Because they're unfamiliar with how it is to live with a disability, they focus on what they perceive the disabled person can not do. Often their assumptions about this are wrong.

Many disabled people do things in a different way. We may not walk but we roll, for example. The point is that we still get around and are mobile. So what can at first glance look like an inability to do something may be a matter of realizing that there is an ability to do it differently. Unless people get to know disabled people, they don't learn this. No words I say can convey to anyone who hasn't been around a disabled person that our experience of living is as full and vital as theirs.

This is why I believe the word inspirational is overused. Living with grace, to me, is not about being inspirational. It's about embracing who you are and participating in the world and serving others. It's an inside job, not a press release. The part where spiritual grace comes in is that I believe God gives those of us with disabilities the grace to find our way in this process. God grants us his "unmerited favor". He guides us and leads us on our spiritual journey, as he does for everyone. God may be inspirational, but I'm not.

Sometimes our journeys are not easy, but that's not any different than for any other human being. Our journeys at times may be more difficult because of how society and others perceive our disability. There are other times when it's not an easy journey because of how we feel about the disabiilty and the issues it may present.

But when people look at disabled people and say "There but for the grace of God go I", they miss a very important point. Those of us with disabilities are not to be pitied. Disabled people live full and vital lives.

And we also live with and in grace.


Anonymous said...

I live with cancer. This helped me to start to put things in perspective this morning. Thank you.


Ruth said...

Dear Ron,
Welcome to Wheelie Catholic. I'm glad you stopped by this morning and happy to hear something you read here was of help - I'm sure that was through God's grace too :)

Anonymous said...

My son wrote this for you. We got the wheelchair. It is beautiful and works great. Here is his thank you note. I didn't want to put his name up I hope you don't mind.

My name is -- and I am ten years old.

I am the boy you found a wheelchair for. It came two days ago. Now I can go back to school. It is much faster than my wheelchair that broke. It is blue and I am going to put decals on it so it looks cool.

The people who sent my wheelchair put a teddy bear in the box with it. I named him WC for Wheelie Catholic.

Thank you for finding my wheelchair. When I grow up I am going to work very very very hard and will give you money to get wheelchairs for other kids. I don't want any other kids not to have wheelchairs who need them.

Your friend for life,

P.S. My parents say thank you too.

Our family is very grateful for all your help. Thank you again.

Ruth said...

I'm so happy that the wheelchair arrived safe and sound and your son likes it so much! Thanks for letting me know - what a great way to start a weekend :)

blue girl said...

Beautiful post.

No words I say can convey to anyone who hasn't been around a disabled person that our experience of living is as full and vital as theirs.

I have to disagree with you there, though. Your words are teaching me. Keep 'em coming.

Ruth said...

blue girl:
Thanks - your comments are really appreciated here.