Thursday, September 16, 2010

Forgive The Meander, But I Couldn't Stop

I had an interesting chat today with a woman who told me that my lecture had reminded her of her days in a wheelchair. Actually, I spoke to several people who had experienced a wheelchair for periods of time in their life. This woman, though, went on to say that while she was in the wheelchair she was constantly angered and constantly frustrated at the inaccessibility of places and the superior attitude of people. She proudly talked about writing letters and making complaints and generally being an activist. She said that she was proud of the fact that she didn't just accept things as they were.

She paused for a minute to think. I knew something more was coming so just waited quietly. She then said that as I was speaking she realized that the moment she stood up from the wheelchair she stopped all form of protest. Further, she stopped noticing inaccessibility. Finally, she began to think of the complaints of people with disabilities as frivolous. She was being incredibly honest and I could tell that she was disturbed by the transition she had undergone. From outrage to outrage - on different sides of an issue.

It was a interesting conversation and one that had me thinking all evening. I admit that throughout my work life I thought a lot about intellectual disabilities and the barriers to inclusion all the time. Still do. But it wasn't until I was personally affected by physical disability that I thought about other barriers, physical barriers. Surely my heart was big enough to care about both - but honestly I didn't, really.

Not to be at all mean, but I know a man who died of prostate cancer. Many of his friends organized and did all sorts of fundraising for the cause. Shortly after he died, the fundraising stopped. Now some of the guys, who were fully conversant with the issues, never mention it and get embarrassed by the subject.

We are odd creatures.

Learning doesn't stick in the way you'd think it would.

Suddenly what mattered, doesn't.

Suddenly what didn't matter, does.

The woman who spoke to me said something interesting, 'I guess I didn't stop and let what I learned sink in. I didn't let it change me. I should have.'

I think its so easy for us to rush through life's lesson like we're speed reading a book that took a thousand years to write. I think its so easy to be distracted by the noise of doing that we no longer hear the song of being. She scared me, in a way. I want the lessons I am learning as a human, about being human, to be more than a temporary 'ah ha'. I want them to become part of me. I want them to sink in. I want growth. I want my passions now to inform the passions yet to come.

I want to always notice - always - doors that let only some in.

I want to always notice - always - attitudes that keep others out.

I want to always notice - always - what welcome looks like, feels like, smells like.

I want life to build a ramp to my heart, the one with room to love more than one. To my mind, the one with room for more than one idea. To my soul, the one with room for both an elephant and a butterfly.

I want these things...

So that my learning will have mattered.

So that my door, opens to all.

So that my attitude, excludes none.

So that my welcome...

feels like a soft chair,

smells like apple crisp

and looks like well worn slippers.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Perfect post!

stephanie said...

Me too...

Brenda said...

A very beautiful - and provocative - post today. I have often thought of these things, but never could have expressed it as well as you have. Thanks for putting my thoughts into words.

Anonymous said...

Let me sink in like a well worn easy chair.

Shan said...

Yeah, it's sad but true - we are faddish creatures.

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg said...

Excellent post!

One of the things that I've come to value about having a disability that is both physical and cognitive is that I've become more aware of both physical and cognitive barriers to inclusion. Back when I thought that my disabilities were the result of a psychological problem, and that they'd someday get better, I had no appreciation for accessibility issues at all, despite having friends who had to deal with these issues all the time. I felt myself separate from disabled people. I don't any longer. While it was definitely an emotional hit to realize that some things are just hard-wired into my neurology, it's also been a great blessing to have to stay aware of these issues. As you say, it's so easy to forget the lessons we've learned along the way. Sometimes, having a condition that won't change is a valuable way to keep those lessons fresh, every day.

Matt said...

A wonderful post. If only I could just dig into my "experience library" for the appropriate life lesson at the appropriate time... but that library seems to remain hopelessly disorganized. And yet I keep on adding new knowledge to it in spite of that...

Tamara said...

That's a big part of why I keep reading your blog ... so I remember and learn ...

Kristin said...

This is really beautiful!

jo1967 said...

Dave, just reading your blog has opened my eyes to so many things that I would not normally have considered. I am much more aware of how I treat people, the words I use and the world I live in. Thank you for that.