A Dignified Life

“Somethings we can’t help but others we can” -Dr.Mary Lou Duffy, FAU Graduate Transitions course

In thinking about some questions I was asked as I prepared myself and my team to embark on this year’s C4L internship program I came upon these thoughts…

Someone asked me, “How should I best be preparing for this trip? In what areas can I (and my support network) be praying for this trip?”

The question made me think almost instantly about 3 words one of my professors stated in  one of her transitions’ class online lecture: “A DIGNIFIED LIFE.”

These 3 words came accompanied by a few other words my professor said (quoted above) that got me thinking about this: The discouraging thought and reality that no matter how hard you try, nor how in love you are with God and His plans…there are and will always be those helpless heartbreaking real life moments that you can’t plan or really prepare for.

You see in class we talked about all the positive things of building a plan to transition kids with special needs to adulthood (Very important mom and dad). We talked about all that we can do to start them early and set them on a path to independence–to a life like yours and mine; but sometimes that’s just not possible.

See it was last winter, I had just begun volunteering with my church’s disability ministry and was assigned to serve with the adults class. It just so happened that we were few in numbers so they decided to merge us with the teens. There I met a beautiful, just beautiful, 11 years old girl who is physically impaired. She took a liking to me and wanted to hang out with me. I was in heaven!! So much so that the moment she said she needed to use the bathroom, I gave no second thought and stepped out by myself with this 11 years old girl that was about my height and weight and fully depended on her wheelchair. Needless to say I needed help. So my team sent me the only other girl volunteer on our floor, a pretty little model size 14 year-old girl (please never try this at home!)

We unbuckled and lifted our special friend up from her chair and unto the toilet. In that transition we realized that our friend had absolutely no strength in her lower or upper body….and it was then that I began to contemplate the “how about’s” of wiping her clean.

“I’m finished” she said. And I proceeded to ask– because it’s just polite and right in my eyes to always ask–“K, who would you like to clean you me or M?”….”you.”

I figured she’d say that. I am the adult and new friend. M was also a friend from school so I understood the awkwardness. Unfortunately, due to K’s and M’s lack of strength I couldn’t please her. I struggled to keep her up right and wipe so I asked M to please wipe her (even though this was uncomfortable for M too; but at this point we had no other choice). After explaining to K that M needed to wipe her, we did it. We got everything put back on and got our friend back on the chair ready to wash hands and rejoin our Church Sunday classroom. When mom came to sign K out and take her home I introduced myself and let her know about our bathroom adventure stating my desire to know how she does this (as K sweetly suggested I asked)….but that night, I could only think of the incident which got me thinking about Joni and her life story, as well as another teen I met last year during my first internship experience.

The truth is, that this is the hardest part. The moments when it hits me:  They have limitations and sometimes those limitations deprive them of their privacy…often even their human dignity.

And these are the things I can’t help, the things I must accept…and take to God and ask Him give me His eyes…

K’s situation made me think of those who can’t even make a request, those fully paralyzed like Joni but who also have speech impairments or no speech at all! It’s really humbling on them, but also on us. They need me for things they wish they didn’t and sadly it is not always that you find someone willing to ask and explain why a certain course of actions is taking place when it comes to their body and needs…people just do and assume that because these individuals can’t speak it is okay to just touch and move about their private areas without warning.

That shouldn’t be.

Speech should be present ALWAYS. It is our job to remember they are people, whether a cute little toddler, rebellious teen, or a full grown stubborn adult…they are individuals expecting us to see them in that light….expecting the same kind of dignified life we have. We disgrace them and God when we think of them as anything less. When we “man-handle” them or grab them and drag them to meet sanitary needs WITHOUT speaking to them…

How is that different from abuse or harassment?…

I think of that and I think of Christ. Our Man of Sorrow, the King of kings, being tossed, dragged, pushed, man-handled…treated like garbage.
And that’s when these heart breaking moments become clear pictures of why God called me to this ministry.
I know that if I were in this humbling positions I’d want help from people who care for me; someone who saw me as His daughter, their sister, His image…because I am No less than that. I’d want their respect and someone to help me fight for it…someone like you, mom and dad.
Truth is, you are the only ones who can establish dignity for your child.

This is what you CAN help.

God Himself gave you this example when He exalted Jesus and established our need to respect Him way before the cross came to be (Matt 3:17, Luke 9:35). God the Father gave Christ a voice, He set Him apart in front of all and demanded He was heard…You are called to do the same for your kids.

“How?” you may ask.

By doing your best to teach us how to treat your kids; and for that YOU yourself need to know about them, the who that they are and the limitations they have (if any)…learning as much as you can is the key to seeing that they can develop to their fullest potential, to a dignified life.

And that’s what we’re here for.

Look parents, anyone can go online, set up a website and provide you with resources to assist your child(ren). Some, like me, would go as far as to offer to support you and train you and even serve you for free! So you can have a vibrant life and relationship with God and pass that on to your children….But it’s up to you to take advantage of it.

So take it, in the end it isn’t as much about you as it is about giving a dignified life to your child. So let us be here for you…for all of you.

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