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.