The moment I became a mama to a child with special needs, was the moment I was ushered into a world I knew nothing about. Although it is a world that is filled with immeasurable love for my daughter and supportive community, there is the unfortunate and undeniable fact that I will have to continue to fight for my daughter’s dignity and justify her existence. This fight is for her and for our new found community.
Early on, as I was being shoved out of my comfort zone, I thought it would be an overwhelming task to get used to the pile of paperwork and appointments. Little did I know that those things would be the least of my worries because there’s nothing more sobering than having to come across many online conversations about how children like my daughter are a “societal inconvenience” and that as a mother I am “damaged goods” because I birthed a “broken baby”. That is actually a more conservative comment compared to others I’ve come across, and as infuriating as it is, I don’t buy into that ignorance for a SECOND!
But others do.
Ensuring services and care for my daughter are only a small aspect to the big-picture issue, which is society simply doesn’t know what to do with intellectually disabled individuals, or maybe they just don’t care to know.
Many like to believe that we’ve come a long way as a society in how we view disabilities and treat those with various diagnoses. Yet as inclusive as our society pretends to be, society usually extends a form of inclusion to those who aren’t “too different” and those who don’t make them feel too uncomfortable. There’s room for the adorable child or preserving adult, who’s disability serves as inspiration for non-disabled people, but other children and adults with intellectual disabilities, behavior challenges or other disabilities are unable to find a seat at the same table.
Even though passing legislation has been significant to individuals with disabilities, signed pieces of paper cannot change the heart of our society.
I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be comfortable about disability issues, and neither should anyone else for that matter because the harsh and convicting truth is: Turning away in order to avoid the uncomfortable, slowly suffocates your conscience, until it feels nothing towards those who feel left out.
What do I mean about ‘being comfortable’ when it comes to people with disabilities?
Today, there are many who still find people with disabilities uncomfortable. Whether it stems from a deep-seeded prejudices that causes them to be cruel or a sincere uncertainty of how to engage that inevitably causes them to overlook – people with disabilities still face many disadvantages that are beyond accessibility but actually question whether or not they are considered a valuable and contributing members of society.
There is still A LOT to be done to help bring a historically marginalized group of people into equal ground. Suicide rates, bullying, depression are all just a few things that impact people with disabilities AND their families. Even though they are the largest minority in the United States, it’s rare to see the masses standing with them in support.
This post is not to shame you into advocacy and I hope you can feel my heart as I write these words. It’s just that when the battle is not your own, there is the luxury of avoidance. Sometimes we just need a simple reminder to see beyond ourselves.
This is what wanting to stay ‘comfortable’ means:
- Comfortable wants you to live your life in such a way that doesn’t allow anything to disrupts the easy, the fun, and the fluffy things you enjoy – especially not for the sake of people you don’t even know.
- Comfortable tries to convince you that you have to be a certain type of person in order to speak up and help.
- Comfortable says to others that their inconvenience and their ‘tragedy’ interferes with your life.
Comfort zones must be shattered in the pursuit of becoming a more considerate, kind, and inviting person. There is nothing revolutionary about these concepts, yet these very simple values seem to be evaporating before our very eyes.
A simple ‘Hello!”, taking a firm and unshakeable stand against bullying as you raise your children, or getting involved within your local government – there are a MILLION ways to let others know they are welcome and that is something everyone can do. However, it is completely up to you on how you choose to make your heart, your home, your community and your world a more inviting place for people with disabilities because no one can force or shame you into caring.
When I look at my relationship with God I realize that I was not built for comfortable, but to comfort others by the same comfort that has been given to me (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8-9). YES, God is calling us to get our hands dirty and to do the hard things.
That is what I am choosing to commit myself to do. Imperfectly? Without a doubt! But continuing to move forward? Always!
I’m just slightly embarrassed and saddened that I didn’t raise the flag of advocacy until it was unexpectedly handed to me, and that’s a point of guilt I will carry in my heart for a long time. May everyone else be a better person that I was and take the torch of advocacy for those who do not have voice.
To watch a brief video about the history of disability rights go HERE
to watch a hilarious video about how to treat someone with cerebral palsy go HERE !!!!