Out of Place

25 Sep

Image

September 2013

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.” John F. Kennedy

Every Tuesday to Thursday I assist a man in a wheelchair named Kerr. Kerr is many things. He is a teacher, he is patient, he is forgiving, he is caring, he is strong, he is understanding, he is a friend, he is a brother, he is a son.

As a teacher he has taught me to not assume that I know what is best for the other person. To slow down and give options to people to have them decide what they would want.

A small example would be asking where someone would like to sit at a table, rather than just picking a seat. Even if you think you know the answer, opening up to another, showing them that respect shows that you value them.

Try it one time and see the effect on the other person. Their smile will be warming. Or they might be confused, why are you being so nice all of a sudden? (haha)

Kerr also is in a wheelchair, has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and uses AAC to communicate. His favourite way to communicate is through blinking to say yes or no.

Yesterday, Kerr and I went to an Adult Literacy program at the North York Library to see if we could volunteer there in the future.

I met a woman there that was so nice because she was actually really rude.

Her voice was speaking nicely and softly, but her attitude was saying I am going to talk down to your level so you can understand these complicated thoughts that I have.

After about a ten-minute conversation about the program and volunteering where she mentioned many times that the person needed to be literate, and articulate to be in this program. And me explaining that I would be with Kerr the whole time that he is volunteering with this program.

She asked me something to think about –“How you will be valuable to the student.” As if she was saying, I don’t think you will be valuable in this program and you need to realize that.

How are people with different abilities valuable to a student?!?! Please read my L’Arche Compassion for my views on that. I could expand to a whole other essay.

But I am trying to set up this story for this next thought.

Placements. Where are we placed? Where are we allowed to be? When you read over the next words try to think where society places them.

Minorities

People with different abilities

Transgendered

Hipsters

Academics

Women

Men

Christians

Smokers

Bankers

The Wealthy

The Poor

There are so many different roles and with these roles, society places us in different categories.

There are many examples of when one role, one label takes over our whole identity and we are not allowed to be more than that.

When often we are so much more than that.

A disabled person who cannot talk, helping an immigrant to learn to read

A hermaphrodite who is an Olympic runner

A poor person not being allowed in a rich store (Oprah)

An African American as President

A prostitute who is a lawyer

Do you notice yourself putting these roles on others?

Do you notice putting these roles on yourself?

Are you limiting yourself from doing something because you think that is not your place?

“I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death”

Leonardo da Vinci

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