If you haven’t been following #DisabilityInChurch on Twitter, I highly recommend you do so.
Someone recently posed this question on Twitter:
Before sharing my responses, I wanted to share some answers other people gave:
Even though I’m not a parent of a child with a disability, in many ways the role I have in my brother’s life is very similar to that of my mother. I might as well be his parent. So if I expand the question to include what families of people with disabilities want people in church to know, these would be my answers:
- The fear you experience when encountering my brother says more about our religious and cultural inability to deal with things like difference, suffering, and ultimately death, than it says about my brother.
- He is different, physically, mentally, and emotionally. That is OK. Actually, it’s more than OK: it’s an expression of the diversity and complexity of life. Don’t see past his differences, embrace them.
- Be honest about your feelings. You don’t need to pretend to be comfortable if you’re not. It is more important that you choose to engage despite your discomfort. Denying your feelings of discomfort is part of the problem.
- He is not a “normal” person trapped in an “abnormal” body.
- He is a person, just like you are a person. Which means he needs love, and is capable of loving.
- You are not as independent as you think you are. Sure, my brother may need more support to get through each day, but don’t kid yourself – none of us is an island. We are all dependent upon countless things to get through each day. Which leads me to…
- Charity, while commendable, actually perpetuates a number of these problems. People like my brother are not problems to be solved – they are human beings. He needs help, that is undeniable. But please, get to know him first. Encountering someone, especially someone like my brother, means you must be vulnerable and open to receiving them as they are. This is the beginning of genuine love, which always does more good than charity could ever hope for.