Sunday, October 9, 2011

Who we are

Not too long ago someone told their story of struggling with who they were and what they wanted to do with life. They finally decided and have spent a good amount of time in school to become a certain person. But they still struggle with a defining feature of the role, something that is worn and when seen, people know who this person is. All kinds of conclusions may then be reached about the person - good, bad, whatever... It's a collar - it says the person is a pastor.

Although it's not the same at all, I've been thinking of how I am defined by my disability. The main difference is that I can't choose to make it invisible... except when I am in my car. So like a person with a collar (or it could be many professions, but mine is not a profession), when I get in my car, I immediately fling the tag somewhere in the car where it is not visible. I have no bumper stickers on my car. So I get in my car and become "anonymous" - the disability goes away. When people see me driving they won't rush to judgement about the lady with the walker. The disability vanishes.

But as soon as I exit my car, there it is! And I think I struggle then, with what I want to do with that. I've become an advocate - people with disabilities have to be their own, strong advocates if they are to "survive." I've been part of a disability association that is led jointly - where people each have a voice that is respected for its uniqueness and value. And I've become a sounding block - people call me - people with disabilities - and people have self-doubt, or they are scared, or frustrated, or mad, and they want someone who will listen to them. I give a bit of advice, but mostly I listen. For some reason people will turn to me for this - I'm not sure why that happened, but it's fine.

Today in our adult "Sunday School," (lack of a better term), we were talking about our church and that although it has leaders, there is an opportunity for equal voices. The church body leads itself regardless of various titles people may have. I like that.

Getting back to our disability association / the work I've done with disability. It's important that we are like the church body. And yet we have been caught in a struggle for others to see that - an attempt to force a model on us that makes no sense, a model with hierarchy which we avoid at all costs in our association.

I now get back to what defines me - who I am. I can choose not to be a part of disability advocacy - to stay back from the things that draw me to them. Disability advocacy isn't my who life or career by any means. But I struggle with the question of whether to drop my role in the association, because of the struggle to avoid being put in a hierarchical model. And I feel torn.

Today we heard a reading that hit me and it all made sense. It's Philippians 4:8-9:
"...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

And then from a prayer group I have joined where a bunch of people meet to start the day in prayer - a bunch of very diverse people - so it is unique and wonderful.. from that group came 1 Peter 3:14:
"But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened."

It all somehow comes together - the collar someone is unsure they want to wear; the tag I fling off; how we, or I choose to identify myself; what my role is/what do I want to be; how should I move forward.

The answer is plainly there. What I am doing is true, honorable, just, ..., etc. I can't simply give it up, and I can't be afraid. I'll have to continue to fight against people saying we must have a hierarchy, and insist that our model, emphasizing the equal voice that is the model we use. In doing this, perhaps people will keep calling me, and I will keep listening. And I will fight through my own struggles with disability.


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