Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Crossing the street - Diane Mettam

Last week I crossed the street, so to speak.  I went to our local Independent Living Services Center to request information on local contractors because I have a sliding glass door that is slightly too small for me to comfortably get onto my deck.  I have lost a good portion of the foam right arm of my power chair sliding out every morning and evening as I tend to our nature habitat. 

We were fortunate to purchase a home that has a back yard that is recognized as a wildlife sanctuary by the National Wildlife Federation because the previous owner built a large feeding structure with specific areas for ground and air feeding birds, as well as large seed trays and nut huts.  I take great delight in going out each morning to feed the birds and squirrels, which now know that I am there to feed them, and don’t scamper off when they see me.  In fact, some of them remain on the feeder staring at me as if to ask why I’m taking so long with their meal. 

But back to the rest of the story - my husband and I located a French door which would allow me more room to get out onto the deck, but we need someone to install it as it will require some widening of the existing opening.  We also need a ceiling fan installed on a sloping ceiling.  So I went to Tri-County Independent Living Services and got to talking about improving access within our local community.  It seemed like they were looking for another voice, another advocate.

Has this happened to any of you?  Are you working to improve things outside the church?  I did in my previous community.  I worked with a group that held workshops for business owners to help them perform audits, develop compliance plans, and put those plans into place (and accomplish them).  This was somewhat successful where I lived before, but business people here aren’t too enthusiastic.  We actually have one hamburger stand that took out all seating so he wouldn’t have to comply with the ADA, I’m told.  (On the other hand, there are businesses that are welcoming, but there are many, many that seem not to want my business.) 

If you are working within the community, how are you bringing a Christian perspective to disability awareness and access?  I had a long telephone conversation with Chris, the paid advocate for Tri-County ILS and told him I’d be happy to help, but I have physical limitations I’m learning to respect (again) and I can’t devote a great deal of physical effort.  Chris said I could accomplish a great deal with a little bit of phone time, and he was grateful for the things I had noticed in my short time here in town.  But when I mentioned I was a pastor, and I had a Christian viewpoint to bring to the issue, he seemed a bit hesitant.  He asked what church I attended, and I invited him and told him it was very welcoming, and accessible and comfortable.  He hemmed and hawed and said he’d think about it.

But that’s not what I meant by a Christian viewpoint.  I recognize I need to get a mission statement together to present to the secular community.  Have any of you done that?  What are your favorite verses or stories that relate to Jesus and disability?  How can we make them relevant to an increasingly secular (and skeptical) 21st century world?  How can we make accessibility a matter not only of the law, but of the heart and the spirit?

“For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.”  Psalm 139:13-16

Dear Creator God, You know our thoughts and our ways, and you are always with us.  Help us to find the ways and the words that will open the hearts and minds of those who hold the keys to open access for all your children.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

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