Sitting in my office, I was listening to someone tell me how I need to be distant from others to prove that I had ‘arrived’. Of how I needed to be in control all the time and not show a single sign of weakness. It got me thinking that living in a world that edifies power and talks of ‘survival of the fittest,” leaves little room for people who may be vulnerable or marginalized. In fact, it leaves little room for all of us– as we all are imperfect–and it gives rise to the masks that we wear. But there are many who cannot wear masks or choose not to wear them. It is these people who show us what community is like.
When we work with those with disabilities, their difficulties are evident to all, and they may be dependent on the community for support. We start believing that they are the ones who need help, and that we are the helper. Developing a savior mentality, we forget that ALL have been created in God’s image. We tend to forget that the people who may depend on us for some of their basic needs are not just receivers but also givers. Love and dignity go hand in hand, and dignity is not something we give, but lies inherently in each person, regardless of whether we acknowledge it or not. It lies in the fact that we are created in God’s image and reflect HIS glory. It lies in the truth that Christ died for each and every person and we are called to love each other. It is based on the fact that they are human, rather than in what they can give us or the way they respond to us. Together we are building a community–a community of love, where all are not contributing the same way, but ALL are contributing. And through it all, God is molding us into His image. He is teaching us what community is, and He is teaching us about love.
In working with those with special needs, we walk on hallowed ground. It is a place where GOD himself walks and talks to us through people who may not be able to respond or behave the way you would expect them to. It is about helping them discover their beauty, their value, their gifts. It is about helping them reach their highest potential. We forget that our value lies in BEING, rather than doing. Our very value to God lies in the fact that we are His children and not in what we can do for Him. And who better to teach us that than those with disabilities?
“We can give people the gift of their dignity. We can help others just by the way we listen to them and speak with them. We can show them by our own trust that what they have to say is important and good. Community is caring for people…” Jean Vanier, From Brokeness to Community