Saturday, March 11, 2017

Special Needs?

I've spent the week working with a group that serves those people in our community who have intellectual disabilities and many who do not speak using standard verbal communications.   It's been a very powerful exercise in both my understanding, my willingness to change, and my need to get out of the way and let that person speak for themselves.  During this time we watched a video about a certain Martin Pistorius who had lived trapped in his own body for many years.   It completely floored me.   I am going to share that now, please watch it:

How different the interactions with these beautiful souls became after watching that video.  Instead of seeing them as people who couldn't learn or couldn't communicate.. I saw them as people I just wasn't able to understand.   It really isn't them that have a problem as much as we who expect them to be just like we are.  I've always viewed them as images of pure joy, people blessed with the ability to love unconditionally.   I still do... yet now I know under that surface is an intelligence that in many ways could be greater than my own....Before I almost had this notion in my mind that they weren't 'smart enough' to know better.. that unconditional love was a result of not understanding what the world was like.. naivete even.  It is truly I who was naive.   

Often when we are in these situations we seek to be Christ.  We want to get out of the way and allow Christ to work through us on these individuals... even asking God to 'heal them' and make them 'normal.'   Yet, we don't take the moment to think that in reality.. it's Christ looking at us from them, with a pure love that is neither unintelligent nor naive... a love that loves us.. despite our shortcomings... despite our lack of empathy... even despite our arrogance and ego.   A Christ who can be transformed before us into the splendor of heaven if we just take a moment to look for Him in their eyes.   To take a moment to listen with more than our ears.. but with our eyes.. our hands.. our soul.  

These men and women don't need to be fixed, they need to be understood.   We need to find ways to interact with them in their language, finding out what their wants and needs are.. who they want to live with and don't... who they want to love and who they don't want to be around...To do that we must be spend time with them.   We must love them, care for them, assist them, and above all be present to them.  

Then we have to stop thinking of them as 'them.'   They are part of us.   They aren't a community over there, and our community over here... We are community.   Too many expect parents with children who express themselves in alternative methods to keep them at home, or to avoid any place where 'adult' behavior is expected... How narrow and rude our focus when we try to exclude those who don't speak the same way we do just because we feel uncomfortable in the way they speak.   We must integrate every person into our community, giving each person, regardless of mental ability the same basic choices that you and I enjoy.  Only then will we not only begin to see the light of Christ shining from them in an opportunity to love, but also begin to transform ourselves to where we can look on every person with the love of God. 

His servant and yours, 

A reflection on the readings for Mass on the Second Sunday of Lent, March 12, 2017.