Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More on radical love- the gift of interdependency

One of the things about radical love is that it allows many gifts into our lives that weren't present before. These gifts were available to us but blocked because of our preconceptions and assumptions about others and even about ourselves.

One of these gifts is interdependence. I've written about this before. It involves a mutual sharing and exchange, wherein each person is enhanced by both giving and receiving. On the spiritual level, I feel this is how things are meant to be and I strive to have interdependent relationships whenever possible, although to some extent that is dependent on the other person.

I recall years ago when a friend sent her teenage son over to volunteer to help me with some physical tasks. He lacked confidence because he was dealing with a learning disability in school. The minute he arrived I set him to work on my wheelchair which was badly in need of tinkering. He was very handy and although he was only about 14 years old he immediately became "in charge" around here of a number of tasks that I physically couldn't do. Not only did he perform them well, but he would check up on whether items needed maintenance, something I cannot get paid employee adults to do at times. If he heard a squeak in my wheels, out came the screwdriver. He was also flexible. If he saw something needed to be done, he went and did it. I immediately gained respect not only for his work ethic, but for this young man's character and his kind, giving nature. I told his mother she had nothing to worry about and that he was a far better helper than most adults!

In return, I gave this young man some tutoring. He went on to graduate high school and find a job and eventually things he loved to do. The interdependence of our relationship helped both of us, not just because of what we helped each other to do by sharing skills, but what we learned from each other. He told me that if I wasn't going to make excuses because things were hard then he wouldn't either. I told him to concentrate on what he could do well rather than dwelling on what he could not. Although it's fine to encourage someone to work on skills, it's really important to emphasize what they are good at.

I don't believe either of us would've benefited as much if it had been just a dependent relationship. I think he would've grown to see me as helpless perhaps even reinforcing the idea that his learning disability should be seen as a black-and-white situation. He could learn in school, although in different ways sometimes. This was no different than the way I do things with assistive devices. I showed him my voice recognition software and explained that I wouldn't get much done without it. This made him more willing to try new ways of approaching learning in school.

But what about radical love? My point is that we all have something to give. Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that people with disabilities can only take, not give. They don't think people with disabilities can volunteer in their faith organizations. They may be thinking that including them just creates more work and forget that people with disabilities each have their own gifts, hidden talents that sometimes remain that way because no one gives them the opportunity to show them. Radical love is about this kind of interdependence which means there is a give-and-take. There is and must be mutual love and respect.

There is always the giving of love itself, which is priceless. All of us do that at many different levels. It is opening ourselves and our souls up to realizing that which makes us eager to embrace a new form of community in which our spiritual and physical needs are met as all of us participate to our fullest.


Anonymous said...

OH what a great truth you have written here. I feel this way about a caregiver that moved me from dependent disabled person to independent adult. (OK so I am working on it.) But she was uniquely herself and did not come at me like a psych patient and introduced a mutuality in the relationship. There is a narcissism that sneaks up on you when you feel totally dependent and worthless. By sharing her own story she motivated me to change. Love heals and best delivered with your own style.

Ruth said...

Interesting comment , thanks! Some caregivers do operate in a way that lead to feeling dependent and worthless - in fact some exploit people with disabilities. It's not the Hallmark feel good relationship often depicted. Difficult as it may be, I've learned it's part of my journey to forge a relationship that's healthy - or , if not possible, move on as soon as I can and certainly my responsibility not to react with negative behavior! Other than the occasional aide who becomes a friend, I've learned the enormous benefits from detachment.