Yes, it is!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Compassion: A 14-Day Journey

That is the title of the Bible reading plan that I started last night.  The title of today's devotion is Compassion for the Disabled.  In Ecclesiastes 9:4 says "Anyone who is among the living has hope - even a live dog is better than a dead lion!"  Now, I'm not quite sure why the comparison between a live dog and a dead lion but it is so true that there is HOPE for EVERY one.  I'm proof of it.  At one point in my life, I felt so defeated, so weak, so worthless, and most of all, I felt hopeless. I wanted to end it all.  Why go on when there seemed to be no hope for me of ever living a happy life?  But thankfully, one person who saw value in me, intervened and pretty much carried me to professional help.  Unfortunately, I don't know where this person is to this day but I am so grateful for her presence in my life at that time.  But that's beside the point.
There is hope for everyone, including the infirm, the disabled, even the most profoundly disabled.  As someone who is drawn to special needs people, I could share so many stories of hope when some of these individuals were given no hope for living at one time in their lives.  And today, so many of these people have better opportunities at life than past generations.  I would like to think that our country's growing compassion for this particular population is attributable to this.  Sadly, this is not the case in so many countries such as Eastern Europe. Psalm 41:1 says that those of us who have regard for the weak are blessed.  I am following a friend's blog which illustrates the perfect example of this verse.  She and her husband, already having 3 living children and 1 in heaven, adopted 3 special needs children from Eastern Europe. If she and her husband had not adopted these children, they would have been deemed eternally worthless and transferred to an institution where they would surely have died an early death.  My friend's life has been enriched because her family had such compassion enough to rescue these children, one of whom has Down Syndrome. Oh, so precious and such a beautiful family.
The author of today's devotion talks about how we marginalize people who are disabled in some way, who lack the "right" skills or the "right" stuff, or even the "right" connections. Some of these people are so severe that they will never be "productive" members of society.  But I truly believe that there is a purpose for every person who has been given life.  You can read about the perfect example right here
Today's devotion asks a couple of questions that may be tough for far too many "normal" people to answer. In regard to the disabled, where do we stand? And do we stand with them?  Just like I said before,  I believe that every person who has been given life has a purpose while they are here on earth, even if it is for just a fleeting moment.  That's where I stand.  And yes, I stand with them, too.  I have always had compassion for the disabled.  And as a mother of 2 special needs children,  I have even more compassion for the caretakers of those who are disabled.  I know personally how difficult it is and at times, how rewarding it can be.  These special people are just like you and me.  They bleed the same blood, breathe the same air, share the same planet, and they experience pain like you and me.  Our skills and talents, needs and desires may vary drastically but they are just as worthwhile as you and me. 
One of my earliest memories of myself showing compassion occurred when I was just a young girl. The memory is seared into my mind because it was such a traumatic event for me.  I was walking with a friend in a neighborhood next to wear I lived at that time. We saw a lady who was always so kind to me and when we went over to say hello, I could tell the lady was a bit frazzled.  Then suddenly, I saw her husband tear out of their home with a foam cooler.  He threw the cooler into the car trunk that was already full of belongings, then the lady and her baby got into the car right before her husband drove off.  My friend and I had noticed that right before this man closed the car trunk, a couple of kittens had climbed out of the cooler and tumbled out of the car onto the ground.  The kittens started to climb onto the car tires and before my friend and I could rescue the kittens, the man ran completely over one, immediately killing it.  The other kitten was partially run over and as I held it in my arms, it took it's last breath. I wanted that kitten to feel love and compassion before s/he died.  Of course, my friend and I cried and we buried the kittens right there in the dirt where they died.  I have never forgotten that memory.  And I always wondered where the lady was and if she was okay. She was pregnant at the time. 
Another memory that influenced my desire to get my undergraduate degree in Speech Disorders involved a middle age lady whom I met in a nursing home.  I first met her when I went with the Jr. Civitan club from school to do an event at this nursing home.  And it just so happened that my mother also worked at this facility.  I remember going into this beautiful lady's room and asking her some questions.  I noticed tears in her eyes.  I sat next to her and asked if she was okay.  She nodded but I soon realized that she was unable to speak.  My heart broke for her. Later on, I asked Mother about this lady and discovered that she had had a stroke which resulted in her having aphasia, the inability to speak. I began to make occasional visits to this precious lady.  It broke my heart because she would develop tears in her eyes every time I would visit her.  I knew she wanted so badly to be able to talk.  I think it meant so much to her whenever I visited her, even if it was for just a few minutes, because I would just sit with her and sometimes even comfort her. Just to have somebody show her compassion touched her.  I knew I wanted to help people like her one day. 
I think compassion came naturally to me.  I certainly was not taught it at home.  Even though I had known several kids during my childhood who were "different", I never really saw them as being that much different from me.  In fact, they weren't much different from me. I was just as weak as they were.  Or just as strong.
And I'm so thankful that we live in an age where people with more severe disabilities are not automatically relegated to living in an institution only to be forgotten by an unforgiving society.  Because if that was still the case today, I would never have met my favorite friend at church who has Down Syndrome. And I would never have had the pleasure of being the favorite cashier of the young man with Down Syndrome.  I was 18-19 years old and he and his father would always come through my line, even if the wait was longer than the other lines.  I'll never forget his big, toothless smile.  It meant the world to his father that I would even talk to his son.  I'm also thankful for the fond memories, still as a teenage cashier, of the older man who had a tracheotomy and a fake larynx.  I was also his favorite cashier because I would talk to him and he, too, would wait in my line however long it was.  I loved it when he would converse back using his "microphone". Looking back, as insecure and shy as I was, my compassionate side brought the best out of me and helped me to meet some of the best people around.  Ah, reminiscing makes me miss that time of my life.  Thank you Jesus, for my compassionate heart.  Even if I am cantankerous around "normal" people. 


Anonymous said...

I am eager to read about your lessons. :) I am re-starting my journey tonight in the form of classes. Compassion is always a great teaching.
much love

Samantha said...

Nikki, again, thanks for your encouragement. I so enjoy reading your comments.