Sunday, January 18, 2015

It's Not A Gift It's Violence

Yesterday was the first day in a long while that it seemed that the cold could be effectively battled by layering and layering and layering our clothing. It had warmed to -8, which compared to recent days seemed even slightly warm. We had been keeping our excursions to just the local neighbourhood so we were in need of a really good shopping at the supermarket. A supermarket that had been determined to be 'out of range' in the cold. We got up, got dressed and headed out.

It felt nice being out and, even though the wind made the temperatures feel much colder, we were simply enjoying being together and walking down Yonge street. We were only one traffic light away from the store when it happened. We were waiting, with a bunch of other people for the light to change. A man, nicely dressed and well appointed, coming towards us from the west saw me and hurried forward. Never a good sign. He got to us a few moments before the light changed. His rush had drawn the attention of others who had also been waiting.

On arrival, he lifted his hand, palm out, and said a blessing over me. Startled looks came my way from others in the crowd. Kindly looks went his way. It was like they thought that this nice man was giving me a gift, a gift I obviously needed.

I choked down embarrassment and quickly sped away from him when the light turned.

A number of people have commented in the past that I can be churlish and ungrateful to people who are just being nice.

Even so, I hated what he had done.

Hated it.

I felt assaulted by his blessing.

I felt diminished by what his blessing meant and assumed.

He saw me, in a crowd of many, as the one person who needed a blessing from God. Here I had been, feeling blessed to be out, with Joe, enjoying the day, and here he was seeing me as a person who was in desperate need of a blessing intervention. His assumption was that my status as a disabled person was one in which made me perpetually in need of blessings from others. The fact that he centred me out from everyone else as the one in need of a blessing meant that he saw me as less worthy and more needy than anyone else around me. His gentle voice and the brief prayer he spoke called God down to bless this "poor man in his struggles" may have seemed kindly to others but it was a kick in the gut to me. I am NOT that. I AM NOT WHAT HE SAID.

I didn't do or say anything. I just endured and then rushed away. I felt somehow powerless in the face of his blessing. I felt like many victims of public abuse, terribly, terribly alone. Joe, too, said that he was so shocked that he didn't know what to do either.

He meant, I think in his own heart, to give me a gift.

His arrogance and privilege will never lead to self reflection, I'm sure of it. But if he does think about it I hope he comes to see it as I experienced it - as an act of spiritual violence.


Glee said...

Yep. The arrogance of it is what really gets me. It's like when people say "there but for the grace of God, go I".

WTF. What they are saying is that the unfortunate person that they are talking about DOES NOT HAVE the grace of god but that they DO. That is the ultimate arrogance and I find it incredible.

I am not religious but I think that the bible says that God made 'man' in his image. So if I am human then I am an image of God. But it seems that that must not be true if I (the unfortunate cripple) do not have the grace of God. Oh no! God is a "normal" person of course.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave: This is just horrifying! Spiritual violence. He was not being kind. He was asserting his privilege and prejudice. People's arrogance sometimes knows no bounds. Colleen

Anonymous said...

I have a problem with people who feel that they may "dispense" God's blessings on those who they feel are somehow inferior to them. Would they feel so free to "dispense" a blessing on an affluent, public figure?? I agree with Glee - this is arrogance at its worst!

CapriUni said...

I second Glee's comment.

Ever notice that no one ever says: "There, but for the grace of God ..." when they see someone ride past in a stretch limousine?

By its surface meaning (that our position in life is more a product of luck than virtue), it should be equally apt. But the fact that no one ever says it in that context just belies how much of a lie it is.

wheeliecrone said...

It was an assault.
An arrogant assault.
He assumed that because you have a physical disability that you are somehow "less than". What a load of old cobblers. What bullshit.
Some people are just too ignorant for words.

CapriUni said...



That said, my personal list of "What I should have said"s is longer than I am tall. Witty comebacks are always perfect, in hindsight.

Also, I think anyone who is as wrapped up in his faith as this man appears to probably wouldn't have heard anything anyone had said to him, much less anything Dave had said.

Anonymous said...

I was exiting a movie theater using my mobility aides and a young couple rushed up and asked if they could pray for me for healing. First reaction was shock. I was still "in" the movie and negotiating my exit. The second reaction was wonder that young people would be so keen to share their faith. The third reaction was that of parental protection, not wanting to hurt their feelings, although I was the recipient of many stares and unfortunately, blocking a bit of the way out. My fourth reaction was a bit of hope. Who am I to limit the power of God, and we often have not because we ask not. I do have a lot of pain and a lot of limitations mobility wise. My fifth reaction was that of thankfulness that I was the recipient of a gift of thoughtfulness. It wasn't until I was in the car that the final reaction hit me. Why me? Why did the young folks target me? Because I was different. I had an "obvious' need. No doubt I was surrounded by people with huge needs...loneliness, hurts, sadness, illness, yet none of them was singled out. I get it, what you are saying. Yet, I think it all comes down to MY attitude, not theirs. I am responsible for how I react, my thoughts and my feelings. I ended up choosing to take the positive and throw away the negative. Perhaps that is what I was supposed to take away from the situation.

Unknown said...

"I am responsible for how I react" is one of the tired excuses trotted out in defence of other peoples ignorance and stupidity. Its a social excuse that is violent in itself. The praying guy assaulted Dave, that isnt on Dave its on the guy and its not ok to minimise or dismiss this kind of all too common disability experience. And is there anything in the various bibles that says God gets around on two legs anyway? Does he even have legs?

Louise said...

When my foster son was about eight, a woman at church said to him 'I can see the Holy Trinity shining out of your eyes'. He drew a deep breath and said the rudest word he knew: 'Knickers!'...... It was wrong then and it's wrong now. But maybe if you think 'Knickers!' it might help you to leave it behind and laugh a little.

clairesmum said...

One of the commenters had a different reaction to a similar experience...but in her case permission was asked (and presumably given) before prayer commenced. A key difference-consent.
I wonder what would happen with a loud bellow of "NO" or "STOP" would do in the circumstance you describe, Dave.
And I wonder if a partnership with VITAS and a self defense program that uses simulation training to practice responses that work would be a way to develop responses that could prevent the verbal violent assault you experienced.

Ron Arnold said...

Honestly Dave - I think if it had been me, I'd have stood up and shouted. "Yes!" then turned to him and said "Odin be praised!"

Just cuz I'm like that.

Pretentious little do-gooders irritate the fuck outta me.

Bite Two said...

"Oh, a chance to show off how holy I am."

Violent, yes. Violating.