Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spirit of the Poor- God Bless You

Have you ever been out grocery shopping and approached by a random stranger who walks down the aisle smiling at you and then reaches out a hand to touch you and says "God bless you"? Or have you been on a road trip and stopping at a rest stop to stretch your legs out and a stranger is suddenly relaying their sob story to you? Maybe you have been at playground with your kids (either in your town or not) and you suddenly realize that there are kids openly staring at your family but not saying anything?

If you have ever experienced this in your life then I would assume you were in the presence of a special needs person. If you haven't, which I assume most of you have never had this happen to you then might I welcome you to my life. My oldest child is a special needs child. When she was an infant we never had anything abnormal happen to us. Then somewhere around the age of two, people started making the distinction between my family and theirs.

Admittedly I used to hate the old ladies and random middle aged ladies that would approach me. (I rarely have men say anything) And let me just add it is ME not my husband they approach. I got tired of these people assuming it was okay to invade my space and bless me by their god that they believe in. Of course every single person that has ever offered up those words "God bless you" has probably assumed that I am a devoted christian woman who attends church every Sunday morning. I am not. 

I did not realize that when my oldest was born that many people out there in the world assumed that I would suddenly find God and pray every day for some sort of miracle to help my baby. How many times have these same women that bless me offer me that saying about God gives us what we can handle. That's a very odd saying if you ask me. Somehow it implies that I am way more strong then you are and can handle these great burdens that I didn't ask for. 

What it all comes down to is this, by their blessing me, these women then affirm for themselves there is a goodness in humanity. That they did not shy away from this family with a special needs child, that by imparting this blessing on these people then for that moment the world is okay. Sounds weird doesn't it?

Are these blessing women better then the kids that stop and openly stare? I'm not sure really. Being stared at is pretty disconcerting. Especially when the parents either don't notice or don't want to notice how rude their children are being.

I wish our society was more accepting in general of special needs people. There really isn't anything wrong or weird about special needs people. They just have to approach life a little differently then the rest of us. I know that the United States is actually more accepting in general then many other countries around the world. In other countries often times people with special needs are hidden away somewhere out of the public eye. 

My request of you reader is this: instead of affirming humanity for yourself (like the people in my above essay) try and affirm humanity for the rest of your community or even the world. Stop focusing so much on making yourself okay and comfortable and spend your energy on others. This too me is how we actually accomplish a bigger a greater goal for all of human kind. Let's replace ME with YOU

Now I am not saying that you should ignore yourself completely (that would be unhealthy!). Please though do think beyond your own nose. Are you doing something on the outside that looks like a good thing but is really only to help you feel better about yourself on the inside? Or are you trying to do something that really doesn't benefit you at all and yet does a whole lot of good for others? 

(want to add your written word to this month's Spirit of the Poor? Click here to link up)


Susan Schiller said...

Thanks for this insight, Luna. I'm glad you're speaking up and helping us to understand that special needs people are people just like us... and don't need to be "fixed" with a prayer or blessing, especially if it's not asked for! What you are saying, if I understand, is something I've been thinking about lately... that special needs people are special blessings... that aren't meant to be "fixed" but honored.

Luna Indigo said...

That's right Susan. You can't "fix" a special needs person, but you can accept them for who they are and the beauty that they bring into this world.

Newell Hendricks said...

I think Caris Adel's post pertains to your post. Affirming everyone as an equal, as a child of God, means everyone. I have my special needs, but they don't show. I have found that there is a wonderful richness in getting to know people who are in some way different from me. It always takes a little effort, but I'm sure there would be a richness in getting to know your child. Thanks for sharing.

Esther said...

Oh, I am so glad you wrote this! It is a lot what I wrote about! This idea that it makes me feel good to "give" a blessing (or a day-old donut), but am I giving something that a person is actually asking for? Am I listening? That's the YOU instead of ME. I want to make myself feel more comfortable with the differences, and I think special needs persons are threatening because they can remind us of bodies and mortality and things like that that we really don't want to think about. So we correct by establishing a relationship of difference: You are special needs. I am the giver of blessings. Likewise with poverty. You are poor, I am the giver of gifts. We are different. So yeah, I think we did write similar things this month.

Luna Indigo said...

Those givers of doughnuts are thinking "I'm doing something nice because they have nothing and this is a treat" However a poor person doesn't need doughnuts now do they? They need "tools" to empower themselves. Am I right? True, special needs might remind many people that we are mortal and that our bodies can let us down. However to a special needs person it is the only body that they have ever known (if they are born that way). I have met angry special needs people who feel let down by their bodies. But really what does feeling angry accomplish for them? Nothing but frustration. Thanks to technology many people who once had no "voice" now can communicate to us. It always shocks me when parents of special needs children are so "shocked" about the thoughts their kids have once they begin using devices to communicate. Really people? What did you think was going on before? How dare you assume these people are just sitting there in a thoughtless vacuum. With my oldest, I know there is stuff going on up in her mind that she can't easily express. Maybe I should start telling more people that you can't catch being disabled. ;-)

Classical Chaos said...
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Emily Heitzman said...

Luna, thank you so much for sharing this! This is so important!

I work with a few youth with special needs and similarly, all they and their families want is to be seen as equally human as anyone else: to feel like and to be seen as someone who has their own set of gifts, challenges, beauty, insights, experiences just as anyone else does… to be truly seen as someone of worth and beauty just for the way they are. I actually touch on this a bit in my post, as well. A few of these youth just want to find a place where they are accepted and belong, and yet they often experience discrimination and exclusivism in their schools and sometimes even within the Church. They may receive these unwanted "blessings" you speak of and then will be sent the message (sometimes by the same "blessers") that they are not in fact equal or worthy… that they are too much of a distraction to be in a particular classroom (or even Sunday School - something one of my youth experienced many years ago) and need to find a place where they can fit in better. This is not affirming humanity.

I also hear you about giving "blessings" that are unwanted. Your insights are really good: that the reasoning behind this may be more about the blessers feeling better about themselves because they are uncomfortable rather than about those they are "blessing." And it sounds like these blessings can be quite painful on the receiver's end in many ways… As you say, one must not assume the receiver is Christian, or assume that he/she needs a blessing to be "fixed," or assume that the receiver believes God gives us what we can handle. (I don't always feel that way, and I sure as heck know a lot of people whose experiences in life are pretty hellish, and they don't always feel that they can handle their situations - let alone that God put them in those situations in the first place.)

I agree with Esther: I think this tends to happen with people who are living in poverty, and I would add that this often happens with people who are of color… Too often they are all treated as the "trophy" friend or person. The one who makes ME a better person for befriending, giving money to, or "blessing" the "other." It is - as you say - about ME rather than YOU, and I believe it all stems down to our own discomfort about people who are not just like us. Sometimes we just need to actually spend more time WITH people who are not like us, and while doing so, keep our mouths shut and our ears open to listen.

Luna Indigo said...

Indeed Emily. You have gotten it correctly. My husband says I always handle these situations with such grace. It is rather interesting to figure out that people are doing things that they believe are correct but really only help validate their uneasiness with a subject. Or are just going through the motion instead of understanding why they are doing it or how it affects others. My birth mother once told me that she wasn't racist because she had a black boyfriend in high school. I found the whole thing odd because I never asked her point blank who she dated after giving me up or what color they were. Her statement told me that she was more trying to get some so of attention for it and make a statement. Poor guy probably wasn't truly seen as a fellow human being in her eyes.And it is these actions that perpetuate how the world relates to it self.

Joanna Hoyt said...

Thank you for the uncomfortable questions. I continue to struggle with my motives in reaching out; also, and separately, with knowing when what I offer is apt to be something the other person is open to receiving. Sometimes I can give the other person what they appear to want, and be reassured by having them be pleased with me, but it's still about *me*; sometimes--though this is dangerous territory, I know--it seems potentially helpful to offer something that may not be what the other person thinks they want. When I've been swamped by my anxieties and trying desperately to act JUST FINE THANK YOU I have sometimes been helped--though not, initially, pleased-- by people who noticed that I was having a hard time.

I do get blessed by strangers sometimes (especially in Brooklyn, where I spent a day visiting and getting lost and was repeatedly taken for a homeless person), and I hear sad stories from strangers (I think that comes with living at a Catholic Worker), and usually am glad of both. But I can see why it would feel very different if I thought the blessing was condescending and directed not at me but at someone I loved.

Caiobhe M said...

Yes, yes ,Yes ! I am really interested to know from you what can or does ever feel like a real blessing to you or your child? I think people often act in unhelpful ways around people with special needs or disability because they don't know what to do but their motivation is probably good. I would love to know what has actually been a good thing for you if that's something you can share?