Monday, March 20, 2017

Dignity (Thoughts on Ableism)

I love the new comedy on ABC - Speechless. The show stars Minnie Driver as the matriarch of the DiMeo family - husband Jimmy and kids JJ, Ray, and Dylan.

The things that makes the show unique is that oldest son JJ has Cerebral Palsy. He is wheelchair bound and can't speak. The initial premise of the show is the family is moving into a new neighborhood - something they've done before as they seek out the best place for their oldest son to receive a quality education. The family is quirky and funny and most of their lives really revolve around JJ.

This past week's episode had a situation with the family in a grocery store. JJ is at the meat counter and, using his word board and laser pointer, is communicating with the store employee about his order. Then a business man in a hurry comes along, steps directly in front of JJ and then reaches back to the joystick that controls JJ's wheelchair and literally pushes him back.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend shared a meme/video thing on Facebook about a woman in a parking lot who encounters a man in a wheelchair. What we're supposed to get from the story is that we shouldn't be afraid to reach out to help someone. The end of the story is that the man is a lonely veteran, his wife had died, he was sad and this person being forceful about grocery shopping with him and buying him what he needed helped lift his spirits and should inspire us all to help others.

At the start of the story, the woman approaches him and he says he doesn't need help but she starts pushing his wheelchair toward the store anyway. He again insists that he is fine but she just knows what's best so continues to push his wheelchair and then that beautiful thing happened where he opens up about his sadness and such.


Ableism is discrimination against disable people. Or, favorable treatment of those seen as "normally" abled.

Ableism is when you see someone and define them by their wheelchair. Or cane. Or braces. Or limp. And so on.

Ableism is when a person with different abilities is seen as less than - less capable, less of an asset, less than human.

Like deciding to push them through the grocery store, even if they have protested.

Like handling the controls on their wheelchair to put yourself ahead of them.

I am not any sort of an expert in this area. But it's something that has been popping up more and more in my life lately. From those examples given above to real life situations - hearing people use the word "retard" or hearing from a friend about the struggles of finding a bathroom that is truly accessible to the differently abled.

Can we talk about that bathroom thing for just a second? Bathrooms have had a lot of attention lately with the government sticking their noses in to where transgendered people should be allowed to urinate and defecate.

Bathrooms are something that I think we often take for granted. My biggest complaints in a bathroom are cleaniness and what type of toilet paper holder is installed. I don't have to wrestle with how heavy a door is, if the door swing towards me or away from me, the width of the stall door or the width of the stall itself. I don't have to keep a list of businesses that do the bare minimum to meet building codes vs businesses that have bathrooms that I can actually easily use.

And how about transportation?

Check this out for a little touch of insight:

You might be saying to yourself - I treat everyone the same! How would I even know if I'm being an ableist?

Here are a few links to give you some insights. Click over and see if you've ever heard yourself in them.

The Ridiculously Simply Way to Know if Something is Ableist

9 Things That Might Not Seem Ableist but Actually Are

7 Ways You Might Be Ablesit Without Knowing It

15 Common Phrases That Are Way More Ableist Than You May Realize

The month of March is Disability Awareness Month. In my state, this means:

Each March, Disability Awareness Month is celebrated throughout Indiana. And given that adults and children with disabilities represent slightly more than 19 percent of Indiana’s population, disability awareness is important for all of us. Led by the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities, the goal of Disability Awareness Month is to increase awareness and promote independence, integration and inclusion of all people with disabilities.

To promote independence, integration, and inclusion.

Meaning ramps and parking space and bathrooms that people of all abilities can use.

Meaning offering the same opportunities in schools and workplaces and places of worship and grocery stores and theatres.

Again, I'm no expert. This is just something that has been coming up time and time again over the past few months.

It isn't about treating everyone the same.

I see it as treating everyone with dignity and love.

I see your cane/wheelchair/different way you walk or talk. I see that you process the world differently. But I'm not going to treat you as "less than" or decide I can somehow help or save you because of it. That I somehow am smarter or kinder or, ahem, more able than you are to navigate the world.

But what can I do about it?

1. Educate yourself. Learn about ableism. Learn about the laws that impact disabled people. Learn about policies. Start googling and you'll find plenty of information. You don't have to be an expert. There is always room to learn more.

2. Be aware. When you walk into a restaurant or library or business or church or school, pay attention to the walkway, the entrance, the doors, the bathrooms, the seating. Try to determine if this would be an easy place to maneuver through in a wheelchair, with braces on, without sight or hearing, with sensitivities to light or sound.

3. Be an advocate. Learn about what policies and laws are in place that impact people with disabilities. And then add your voice to those who are seeking equal treatment and opportunity. Or maybe you frequent a local business and you realize that their handicap accessibility isn't really very accessible - let the owner or manager or corporate office know that you think it needs to change.

4. Be a friend. Say hello to someone that you notice is differently abled. Don't add to potential feelings of rejection or isolation by avoiding them or avoiding eye contact. Say hi. Be friendly. Maybe strike up a conversation. Make a new friend. Not because they "inspire" you or out of pity or because you think they're "adorable." But because you realize how politically savvy they are, how witty they are, how smart they are, how funny they are - all the reasons you'd make friends with any person.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The 2017 List in March

1. This is looking both more challenging and more possible to accomplish. On the one hand, we are seeing more anxiety from the kids about being away from us right now. On the other hand, we have become friends with a family that Teagan thinks she'd be ok to spend the night with. Our original plan was to basically just trick the kids - we act like it's just date night, Christy puts them to bed and they wake up to find Christy still there! I think it will be a bit later in the year before this one happens.

2. No effort made on my part for this one. Yet.

3. Heading to Gatlinburg in a few weeks!

4. I haven't done anything specific to really deep dive but I did listen to this on NPR about Islam and recommend it for everyone -

5. I'm waiting for spring.

6. See #5

7. Getting there. Slowly. This final color belt is challenging.

8. Prayer and reflection - check.

9. Working on it.

10. Getting there. Also slowly. Reading Henri Nouwen's "Discernment" and getting a lot from it.

11. Not happening aside from tae kwon do. Need to move this up the priority list at some point.

12. Yoga - similar to #11.

13. Again - slacking. Need to make this happen.

14. Spring - I promise!

15. Spring and summer

16. Free hugging has been done once. I have a plan for a second time but haven't made it happen yet.

17. I am about to finish book #9 (Black Man In A White Coat) for the year. I think Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom will be next. I've had to step back from the book club just due to my schedule being too crazy right now. But we do have our first family book club meeting coming up - 3 families getting together to discuss a book we all read. Here is what I've read so far:

18. I am journaling. Even had to get a new journal. My last one lasted almost exactly 2 years. And Teagan and I have a mother-daughter journal we share.

19. This one is going very well.

20. Need to up my commitment a bit on this one. We have a system but we need to be more strict about the kids doing the assigned daily chore.

21. I think this will be one that I reflect on at the end of the year more than anything.

22. I have not done this. And I could count it as time in nature and prayer time if I'd just commit to making it happen.

23. I'm wearing it. But I need to work at using it to motivate me to get more steps. I do like tracking my sleep, too.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Season of Discernment

I am in a deep spiritual place.

I would like to go wander in the woods alone to simply receive and contemplate.

I attended our Ash Wednesday service at church last night and there were many things that spoke directly into my soul.

There was a "read and response" to open our time together. I've completely chopped up what was spoken. I've written it down and moved it around and mixed things up. I've taken pieces from other parts of the service and mixed it in.

Here is what it comes down to for this "season of discernment" (Lent).

For everything in me that may hide God's light

To receive this blessing, my heart must break open

What is in me that hides God's light?
A lack of reverence for truth and beauty
Going along with mean and ugly things
Arrogance that "knows it all"
Artificial living. Artificial worship.
Being pompous. Being rude.
Cynicism about others
Intolerance and Indifference
Being satisfied with the church and the world as it is
Failing to share my outrage about injustice
Selfishness, self indulgence, self pity
Token concern for those in poverty, who are alone, who want to be loved
Confusing faith with good feelings and emotional responses
Confusing love with wanting to be loved

From dust I came and to dust I will return

How are you using this season of Lent? Is there a call on your heart to draw closer to God? Are you feeling nudged to take more action? To draw within yourself?

I read an article on Vox and it ended with these words:

Lent is specifically designed to dismantle the egotistical ideas we sometimes have about ourselves, to identify the places in our lives where we’ve grown arrogant or complacent, to remember that we are going to die someday, and to repent and renew our dependence on God. Lent is meant to be uncomfortable. And it’s meant to end in gratefulness.

What in me is hiding God's light?