A heartfelt and educational “rant” from our very own Jane Hurst (Publicity Officer at Evenbreak):
Picture the scene, walking in the park on a nice sunny day with my walking stick, thinking I’m doing quite well at this walking lark actually, and chatting casually with my son, I am approached by a young unfeasibly attractive young man who announces proudly that he’s a vicar. [Silence] “Are you?” I stumble out. “Yes. And I wondered if you’d like me to pray for your needs (or was it knees?) as I can see you have difficulties” Any disabled person reading this will instantly wince at this but I fear others, especially those blessed with belief in the Lord will actually think it’s a nice thing to say. Let me explain with three little words.
How dare he?
He is making some big assumptions here.
- What makes him think that I want to change the way I am. Perhaps I have come to terms with my “difficulties” and have learnt to live I think quite well despite my stroke 10 years ago. I have come a long way from total paralysis, a slight limp on a good day and a dead arm I can live with. I can still enjoy a peaceful day out in the park, can’t I?
- Do we like to be noticed for our disability? Disabled people like me actually try very hard to fit in with the crowd, minimising the shock factor as much as we can. I know we shouldn’t try and hide it but somehow it’s in-built. Yet we are rewarded with the mental equivalent of pointing and laughing by someone who has helpfully pointed out that our disabilities stand out a mile and need to be fixed.
- I respect everyone’s right to believe in God and the power of prayer, all I ask in return is to retain my right not to believe in either. The power of prayer does not mean a damn thing to some people.
- Asking someone if they want to be “fixed” assumes that we are not OK as we are. Is there not room in this world for people of all shapes and sizes, deformities, oddities? That’s the real stinger, what disabled people take away from this is that we are defective and need to be made normal, put through God’s holy sausage machine, arriving the other end as a perfectly smooth and uniform sausage conforming to society’s view of acceptable and normal.
Now, the psychologist in me knows that he’s probably just finished his training, bless him, so like an over enthusiastic puppy on an unusually sunny day he’s probably trying to fix the world one problem at a time, bounding up to strangers with a wag and a smile and proclaiming to the world that he’s armed and ready to do God’s work. He did have the grace to say he hoped he hadn’t offended me, to his credit. Bit late really, the words stable door, shut and bolt spring to mind!
His over ebullience sadly landed on me and has made me feel terrible, not just for myself but others who I know have experienced this well-meaning but unhelpful and even destructive approach to visible disabilities.
So please, don’t try and fix us with God unless we ask for your help. That’s all I ask. We are working it all out for ourselves and if we need your help or the big G’s, we know where to go.
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