Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Parable of Disability

Two guys met at a camp this past summer in California. This is a very special camp. It is sponsored by Joni and Friends International - one of their Family Retreats. These retreats are structured so that individuals and families affected by disability can come for a week of fun and refreshment and spiritual renewal. Each individual or family who comes gets a special friend assigned just for them - just to "be there" for them during the week. "Being there" includes being a pal, sticking together, talking, sharing the adventure of Family Retreat and practical help as needed. The "friends" (called "short term missionaries/STM's" by Joni and Friends) are individuals (some with obvious disabilities themselves) who come to serve during this week - at their own expense!

Family Retreats (and being an STM friend) is an incredible experience! It is amazing how two strangers can be assigned to each other and how each pairing becomes such an great opportunity for giving and receiving love!

There is a picture of these two guys in my mind. I take it out often just to smile over. They both have big smiles on their faces! One of them is in a wheelchair; the other is riding on the back of the same wheelchair. The one in the wheelchair has a spinal cord injury and brain trauma which have changed his life forever. The one riding on the back also has a spinal cord injury from his birth process gone bad. He too has to use a wheelchair (or sometimes a skateboard) to transport his paralyzed lower body around. Both guys are young adults. They are wheeliing over the grass - two buds together!

Both of these buddies knows his limits but neither is focusing on the limits of his disability in this sunshine moment. Both are celebrating just hanging out together - an experience made all the sweeter by their shared disability!

Parables are stories told to teach truth. This "parable of disabiity" can teach us all:
  • to enjoy all the life we can pack into each moment
  • to focus on what we can do rather than on what we can't
  • to be willing to give love and support to a brother or sister in need - thinking outside-the-box
  • to receive what someone with a different perspective on life can show us

These two friends wheeling across the grass weren't thinking about their limits in that joyous moment. They were celebrating life and friendship. They were showing a better way of handling life's challenges - even the challenge of disability! They gave me something to remember. They unknowingly challenged me to live life with healthy balance. They gave me a whole new way of seeing in their enjoyment of life on that sunny summer afternoon in California!

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