Monday, September 4, 2006
Revolution of the Heart
"The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?"
This quote really sums up what is behind all of our challenges, including those regarding inclusion: change has to start with each one of us, whether we are a person with a disability or not. This change (or revolution) has to begin in our hearts.
I pray often about how to follow God's will in my life and that includes any action I take toward or what I write about inclusion. My goal is to reach out to others' hearts and make them aware of issues and I realize that without prayer, I am spinning my wheels.
How can I reach people if they aren't interested in hearing the message? How can I touch peoples' hearts if they look away in fear? How can I help those with disabilities feel empowered? How can I help bridge the gaps that have been created over the years that still seem to block inclusion?
I got off of the phone with someone last night around midnight after spending part of the day with my nephew who has CP. I was teaching him how to use a wheelchair better. He can walk but tires after ten or fifteen minutes. However, in a wheelchair, he gets around quite well! Quite frankly, I was feeling very tired last night.
The person on the phone last night has MS and just started to use a wheelchair. She was telling me that she is afraid to go out because of some negative things that happened to her in her wheelchair- and,specifically, last time she went out a teenager called her a "cripple". After she had a good cry, I explained to her that these thing still happen and told her it's very important to learn to put them in perspective and still go out. I talked to her about a spiritual approach to these issues and to embrace the example of those who faced adversity and did not give up.
I was tough on her, you might think. I am indeed, sometimes, accused of tough love. After all, some might think I was tough on my nephew when I explained that he could not just wheel his way into crowds without regard for others - but a kid with a disability needs to learn wheelchair etiquette. I couldn't find an explanation for him , however, when someone cut in front of my wheelchair in line and made a cruel comment about me "knowing my place".
Our Church teaches inclusion both in our church and in society - and this is why. Our society has a long way to go in terms of attitudes toward those with disabilities. Those of us who work toward social justice and speak out aren't just isolated narcissists, as some might say, but representing an oppressed minority. As Dr. Peace notes in his writings, people with disabilities remain disenfranchised, overlooked and stigmatized in society. *
And I do hope that these words reach someone's ears, create some awareness - so that we can all seek that change of heart which produces a more inclusive society for my nephew and our other children.
*See article in Action magazine this month , Disability Studies:A Primer, William J. Peace, Ph.D.
Posted by Ruth