Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Kindness - Diane Mettam

Today a man at church thanked me for my advocacy of mobility access and sensitivity for those with hearing loss, but told me how difficult hymns and scripture passages speaking of “broken hearts” are for him.  He has a broken heart; that is, he has had heart surgery and lives with a heart that doesn’t work properly.  

The same pain that greets me when I see lyrics equating “lame” with “shame,” two words I don’t allow in my vocabulary, assail him when he reads and hears about a broken heart.  He shared how he’s tried to talk to people about it, and he gets the same response many of us do:  “Oh, it’s just a figure of speech.  We’re talking about spiritual brokenness.”  That response usually comes from an able-bodied person.

I thanked my new friend profusely for opening my eyes to a new (to me) disability, and another new way of thinking.  I also told him about “Invisible Illness Week,” which I neglected to mention last week.  That brought up his second sorrow, the fact that he has a disabled parking placard, but receives unfriendly stares whenever he uses it because he appears perfectly healthy whenever he exits his vehicle.  No one knows that he can’t walk for more than four or five minutes without becoming physically exhausted.  A trip to the store is a trial. 

Before my legs and back degenerated to the point where i needed my wheelchair, I often found myself in the same situation.  Sjogren’s Syndrome doesn’t show on the outside.  Asthma doesn’t show.  Diabetes doesn’t show.  The old joke, “But you look so good,” was a sad truth.  No one wanted to hear that you didn’t feel good, and certainly no one believed that you deserved that special parking place.

So what can we do to be kind to each other?  That is my question for each of us this week.  As my friend Dan always says, we can’t tell what someone else is going through until we have rolled a mile in their shoes.  How can we open our eyes, ears, minds and hearts? 

Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart.  Psalm 119:34

Dear Creator God, Remind us that we each have challenges, and that sometimes these challenges are not easily made known to us.  Help us to be aware of the needs of those around us, and to help and accommodate those needs in all the ways we can.  In the name of your Son, our Healer and Savior.  Amen

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Polio and immunization - Diane Mettam

I have been thinking this past week about immunizations.  It started with a viewing of the “This Close” commercial produced by Rotary International in which international figures, including Bishop Desmond Tutu, Jackie Chan, Bill Gates, and others, hold their thumb and index figures and inch or so apart and declare “We are this close to ending polio.” 

As Rotarians, my husband and I are very proud that the fight to end polio is nearing an end.  We believe it complements the United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria campaign quite nicely, and we are thrilled to fight two diseases which threaten the well-being of so many. 

Polio cases have decreased 99% since 1998, from 350,000 reported cases to 406 reported cases in 2013 according to the World Health Organization.  But three countries - Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria - are still endemic, and aid workers in Pakistan are being turned away because the Taliban is convinced immunizing children is a plot to harm or kill their children.  Consequently, children (and adults) are becoming infected with polio and the disease is spreading.  Workers have also been attacked in Nigeria.

According to the WHO, “as long as a single child remains infected with poliovirus, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease. The poliovirus can easily be imported into a polio-free country and can spread rapidly amongst unimmunized populations. Failure to eradicate polio could result in as many as 200 000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world. There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life.”

Many people look at the failure of the Taliban to allow aid workers to allow children to be vaccinated against polio as the backward act of an ignorant or superstitious people.  But we have a similar crisis here in the United States, where many parents are refusing to immunize their children against common childhood diseases like measles.  There is a prevalent misconception, soundly refuted, that immunizations, cause autism.  Tragically, people are exposing their children to diseases that can cause serious harm to their children based on the irrational belief that they are averting a neurodevelopmental disorder. 

Most parents today aren’t old enough today to have seen a person who was touched by polio, in even its mildest form.  Measles, mumps, and chicken pox can have dire complications in children, including pneumonia, meningitis, hearing loss, sepsis, and encephalitis.  In adults complications can be even worse.  I have a friend who spent six months in the hospital paralyzed from the neck down after he was exposed to chicken pox as an adult.  He later regained use of his shoulders, arms and hands, but his life was changed forever.

Today I plead with each of you to encourage your congregations, your friends, your families, your acquaintances, to make sure their children have their recommended childhood immunizations.  It is a kindness to their own children, to the children around them, and to themselves.

We thank you, O Lord, for the gift of medicine and healing.  We thank you for the wisdom of doctors, and the gift of preventive medicine, and we ask for the faith and confidence to use those gifts wisely.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Keeping in touch - Diane Mettam

As many of you must have noticed, last week’s devotional was a tad late.  Our house was without internet service for most of the week due to a defective router, and it had been receiving poor quality internet service for weeks prior to that.  I had actually purchased a new wireless printer, thinking my old one was bad, and taken my laptop to the Mac shop, thinking the network card was bad.  But it was the router, the little black box that brings the internet signal into our home and shares it wirelessly throughout the house.

As I said, we had been without a reliable internet signal for some time, but it finally stopped working on Tuesday.  And the woman at Tech Support promised that a new router would be shipped out overnight.  She lied.  I waited at home all day Wednesday, missing two classes, and no router came.  It didn’t actually arrive until late Thursday afternoon.  And then, because the internet provider had changed my password, I couldn’t actually get my service up and running without another lengthy phone call.  And when I finally got it it running, the download speed was 1/10th of what it should have been.  So I left the house and waited for proper speed to be restored instead of another lengthy, and possibly testy, call to Tech Support.

Last Sunday I filled in for the pastor at our local church, and I talked about how hard it was to maintain the attitude of a Godly woman when I was so frustrated by poor customer service, the fourth router in 15 months, and the inability to get my work done.  None of these were adequate excuses; I was just plain crabby!  But I realized that I do so much of my sermon prep online because I still don’t have all my books unpacked, and I needed access to the web.  I was also quite late getting my devotional to you, and I wasn’t able to keep in touch with my friends and family as is my wont.

And that got me thinking about how we need to keep in touch with God.  If we don’t keep that line of communication open, that can probably drive us a bit crazy, too.  We need to read God’s word, pray, and spend time with fellow Christians.  We need to lift up and encourage one another.  And we need to make sure we don’t spend too much time plugged into our electronic devices, as convenient as they are. 

Thank you, Dear Lord, for the gift of the Internet.  We can connect with friends, family and colleagues in ways we couldn’t have imagined even thirty years ago.  We can reach out in ministry in new and exciting ways.  We can send your word around the world, and translate it into the languages we need to reach to reach new people.  We can reach the blind and the deaf with special technology, and reach people who can’t leave their homes.  We thank you for these gifts.  Remind us to use them wisely, and to keep you always at the forefront of our minds and hearts.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.  Proverbs 8:34