I’ve long held that disabled persons have a gift.
Albeit is is a gift that few if anyone want. But some of the most mature, caring people I’ve known (in my youth work and elsewhere) have been people who have had the privilege (one nobody asks for) of having a sibling or child who is disabled. Disabled people teach us to care.
But in this post, I wanted to record a different thought I had related to disability – and it might have the potential to be a bit controversial.
I’ve noticed that there is much effort to help disabled persons to be as ‘independent’ as possible. To live in their own place, to get their own groceries, to drive their own car – that sort of thing.
I guess my question is when does the good, humane task of helping someone ‘stand on their own two feet’ (so to speak) become something that ‘helps’ them into a lifestyle that is isolating, individualistic and thus inhumane?
I have a conviction that humans are made to be burdens to one another, and yet it is resisted both by those who fear being the burden, and by those who fear bearing the burden. This resistance, I’m convinced (and admit to in my own experience and choices), is part of the pressure of living in an individualistic society where ‘freedom’ is defined by how many (often consumer) options one has.
More choices, though, can be an enslaving thing. I know a disabled person who has (again) been placed in a living situation that isolates them, makes them feel intensely lonely, and contributes to them seeking out friends that encourage behaviour that has got them into legal trouble multiple times.
But this person, like all of us at times, resists the help that they need so much. I once threw out my back trying to – at the last minute – shift all my possessions between dwelling places. Help is not easy to ask for – disabled or not. And help is not easy to give.
So I’m just wondering. Should we ‘help’ disabled people to become like us? People who too often don’t know how to ask for help? Thoughts welcome.