Ableism

 

Many of you know if you have read my “About Me” section or if you know me personally, that three of my six children have a form of dwarfism called brachyolmia. No one else in our family lineage has this condition. My husband and I both carried a recessive gene mutation. I love my big family and having a rare genetic disorder running through our genes does not change the way I feel about them at all. This may seem so strange to some people, but there are a lot of people who already know their child will have dwarfism or another genetic condition before they get pregnant because they or their spouse have it, yet they still chose to have a child or even a big family. Somehow, people who have not walked this road, see disability as some sort of horrible misfortune or life sentence should they happen upon its path.

Our society unfortunately suffers from ableism. Ableism is the idea that people with any kind of disability, physical or mental, are inferior. I think the perfect example of this is that so often women are encouraged to abort children with dwarfism. I’ve read their pleas of hope and indecision online. I have also felt this pain. Instead of being given information on how to raise a child who was different physically, I was told the worst while pregnant. All people are equal in the eyes of the Lord. The Bible says God is no “respecter of persons.” He loves the disabled or different just as much as He loves anyone else.

You are probably thinking, “That’s not me. I do not devalue people who are different from me or who are disabled.” The truth is that most of us are guilty of abelism in some way at some point in our lives. We put too much emphasis on the physical rather than the spiritual. If today you had to trade shoes with someone who was physically or mentally handicapped or you suddenly lost your beauty and health, would you still be able to find joy in this life? Would you feel useless or worthless? Would you suddenly care more about what those people encounter in the world on a day to day basis?

I will explain…

I find it so ironic that we push to change things in ourselves that we have little power over. We long to be more beautiful, more intelligent, healthier, or far wealthier, but the truth is those seldom are things we can change in a permanent or drastic way. We all age. We all stumble upon misfortunes with our health at some point, and your wealth means nothing to you when you die. Yet, we neglect to change the things about ourselves that are much more valuable, dependable, and lasting such as our character. You may not be the most beautiful, the smartest, or the wealthiest person in the world, but you could easily be the kindest, most honest and giving person alive if only you chose to be. It is really that simple. It is our character that will make true and lasting change in this world and in eternity. Why do we not invest the same effort into it? Why do we not invest into the things which are so much more valuable and are also much easier to attain?

Not long ago, I was in a store and noticed a woman with a mental handicap shopping. She wasn’t very tall and had short, dark hair that appeared as though she had cut it herself. She was awkward by most standards, but seemed fairly high functioning. She had a woman with her whom I assume was in charge of taking her places when she needed something. The caretaker/ older woman criticized the woman with the mental disability all throughout the store. It seemed like every choice or comment she made was deemed wrong or was met with a sharp reply.

When I entered the line to pay for my items, these two woman, with their separate carts, were in front of me along with a couple of other people. A new line opened up and the next person was called up to check out. The critical woman and another lady raced to the new line even though they were not next, and got into an argument with one another. I was shocked at their selfishness and anger.

Meanwhile, the woman whose turn it was, with the short, dark hair, let them go ahead. She was not in a hurry. She was focused on the lady in front of her who was in an electric scooter and was struggling to get her bags back into her basket. She eagerly helped the other woman load her groceries, and spoke so sweetly to her. She held the door and as her own items were rung up, she told the cashier, “I’ll be right back. I’m going to get the door for this lady and help her lift her bags into her car out front.” She smiled down with such love for the stranger in the scooter who was very grateful.

The lady at the register looked slightly annoyed that she may have to wait a minute should she finish ringing things up before the woman stepped back inside. The cashier missed the beauty in the event that she just witnessed. That woman, though she was looked at as inferior and as an inconvenience by those around her because of her mental disability, was the kindest, most beautiful, and selfless woman in that store that day.

Our abilities are to be measured by so much more than our physical attributes or mental capacities. Don’t be surprised if in heaven you find that you contributed far less to cause of Christ than someone you feel is unimportant or an inconvenience in your church because they can’t contribute in the same way as you. God doesn’t look at the abilities you were given. He knows exactly how you were made and loves you as you are. He looks at what you did with what you were given and why you did it.

“Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.” I Corinthians 3:12-18

-Andy

 

3 comments

  1. Beautiful…. so true. I am guilty as charged but I have also been on the other end – being heavy my whole life and now with health issues that limit me on a few things I have seen the other end also. My prayer in life is to be the woman in line… make the extra effort to help others in need no matter how small it may seem to us it can make a huge impact on others and if we do it in Jesus name he gains the glory. Andrea you are such an inspiration to so many! love you

    Like

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