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