Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Many Faces of Disability

I just watched a movie. Actually it was a training film for the 60 or so of us who are training today to be “short term missionaries” at “Joni Camp.” The setting is those pre-flight moments on an airplane.

On one side of the aisle is a man working on his computer (“computer man”). In the three seats across the aisle is a family leaving on vacation: father on the aisle, young daughter in the middle, mother at the window. The “computer guy” tells the attendant that he plans to sleep through any food on the flight.

Then a mother and daughter enter and sit next to “computer man.” The daughter is obviously disabled with some cognitive issues. The mother looks weary and worn. She tries to subdue her daughter to no avail. The daughter is anxiously looking out the window for a glimpse of her loved grandfather who has apparently gone to heaven recently.

The vacationing father asks the attendant for alternate seating. As the dialogue and action progress, it is very apparent that he isn’t asking for his family but for the mother and daughter across the aisle. After several tense conversations with the flight attendant and the vacationing father and then the flight attendant and the disabled girl’s mother, the mother gets up and follows the attendant to the rear to see what seats are available.

While she is gone, the daughter engages the “computer guy.” She is agitated and persistent in pointing out the window and calling out her grandfather’s name. The “computer guy” gently and willingly encourages the girl to move to the middle seat so she can see out the window. When the girl yawns, he allows her to lay her tired head on his shoulder. She falls asleep before her mother returns.

When her mother returns anticipating that they will move to the back of the plane, the “computer guy” shushes her and says, “No, it’s fine. Let her sleep.” The mother looks at him like she’s seen an angel.

The movie ends with the obvious and sad implication that disability comes in obvious in-your-face forms and also in other guises. The father who didn’t want his vacation disturbed could perhaps be seen as defending his own turf/family vacation. But he certainly could never be seen as having a loving, kind heart toward others.

The “lesson” of the film clip is that disability shows up in disguise in disabled hearts when we fail or refuse to consider others better than ourselves as God requires. Only the God Who redeems and restores hearts can give us the kind of love that cares more about others and their needs than we do about our own!

No comments: