Sunday, August 12, 2018

Yes, he is handsome. But also so much more.

The little girl couldn't help but see us as the host led us to the table right beside her family. We removed a chair so Benjamin could drive up to the table and all took our seats. Little three-year-old never turned away. She had her eyes focused not necessarily on Benjamin at first, but definitely on his wheelchair. And then she began asking her mom questions. Mom smiled at us and tried to whisper to the little girl as she physically attempted to turn the little one's body around in the chair to face their table, not our's. But little sweet thing was persistent. She needed to ask her questions, she needed to take it all in visually. I couldn't help but smile at her little inquisitive self. I nodded to her mother and told her it was ok. She should let her ask questions. I explained -- in my best three-year-old way -- why Benjamin uses the wheelchair. She seemed satisfied and actually turned around for about 30 seconds. Her curiosity just couldn't be contained. The family got up to leave not long after. I met the Mother's eyes and told her to let her daughter continue asking questions because as that generation becomes more comfortable with wheelchairs and the amazing people who use them, the better the world will be.

Because let's face it. There are plenty of generations walking around that have no idea what to do with wheelchairs or the people who use them.

In our travels this summer we found ourselves waiting in a line for a photo op the crazy mom wanted (that's me, btw ;) ). As a group ahead of us made their exit, an older woman in the group stopped when she got to us. She leaned over to me and told me how handsome Benjamin is. I smiled. She continued, "I mean, at least he has that going for him." And kept walking.

I was left stammering. What. Wait. Huh? I wanted to chase her -- No, I mean yes, he IS handsome, but NO that is not in any way an "at least he has that!" 

I opted to stay in line for the photo op. And took a deep breath.

An old friend reached out to me this week to encourage me in a particularly trying situation. Bryan is wise -- he has always been wise -- and he is articulate in a way that has me reading and re-reading his words. They are a balm to my soul. He suggested that most people can not recognize the disabilities and fragilities in their own lives, therefore they see Benjamin as wholly different from them.

The wisdom in those words is staggering because the reality is that we are all broken in some way -- physically, emotionally, spiritually. And as such, we all need concessions made to accommodate our own special needs.

Unfortunately, too often we see people like Benjamin and feel arrogant in our bodies' ability to run, jump, climb. We feel like the older lady in our travels, that at least he is handsome, and move along. 

Or perhaps, our arrogance leads us to extol on our own virtues -- I was able to show kindness to a disabled person, therefore others should be exceedingly proud of me. Our child deserves a medal for the kindness they showed. Or our students should be commended for being so accepting of people with disabilities with grace. Our church body should be rewarded for the [condescending] way they patted that young man as they walked out around him.

And perhaps my own fragility is revealed oh too clearly in that paragraph -- in the way I feel broken, weary, and exhausted because the battle to be seen is sometimes more than I want for my children.

Benjamin is a handsome guy. But far more than that, he has a brilliant mind, is a skilled listener, a loyal friend, a gifted writer, and a master at Disney trivia (you KNOW this if you happened to be on our ship this summer!).

My disabilities far exceed his. I wonder if maybe, just maybe, some of those who have patted themselves on the back recently for being so good to Benjamin might say the same.

I mean, you wanted to see the photo we waited for, right?

Carol - The Blessings Counter