Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Gift of Today -- Diane Mettam

I had a dear friend named Celeste who had multiple sclerosis.  It was a severe case that  eventually stole her life.  It started when she was was in her late teens, robbing her of the chance to finish her Masters Degree.  By the time we became friends she was living in a wheelchair, could barely see through her coke-bottle-thick glasses, and using her hands was difficult for her.  But she had a wonderful mind, and a tremendous heart. 

She was struggling to raise a rebellious teenage son and deal with the state medical, public assistance, and housing systems.  Although she could no longer read, she volunteered at the elementary school, listening to other children read.  She was a very independent person, and tried very hard to do things for herself.  She loved to go for rides with me, to the store or to the park.  But her desire to be active was greater than her energy.

I remember (with chagrin) my energy point talk.  Imagine you are given, I told Celeste,  100 energy points a day.  Suppose it takes 70 points a day for your normal daily activities - bathing, brushing your teeth, eating, dressing, etc. That leave you 30 points for other things.  You cant do more than 100 points in one day.  If you do, you will crash.

I say I remember with chagrin because those words have come back to haunt me.  I used to have super-energy; now it seems I have none.  Since I have become ill, my energy has declined at an alarming rate.  Just a year ago I used to be able to do two things a day; now I can do only one.  And that means I can go to church on Sunday, but I cant sing with the Worship Team because I put too much energy into singing.  It means I can go grocery shopping with my husband on Saturday, but I cant go out to dinner that night, not even for fast food.  It means if I overdo it, I get sick, or take two or three days to get my strength back.  It means I must take a nap every day, sometimes two. 

I worry some days that perhaps I am nearing the end of my life, and this is the signal, this wearing-down of my batteries.  Other days I tell myself I am just ill, and aging, and things dont work the way they should.  Either way, I know God has a plan for me, and I just need to trust it.  But it is difficult when I feel I have so much more I must accomplish.  But the more I worry, the less energy I have.  That, too, takes energy points.  And it robs me of the joy of just being present in Gods amazing world.

Are you, too, sick and tired of being sick and tired?  Managing each day can be a chore.  But each day when you open your eyes remember to thank God that you were given this day.  It is a gift, the present.  Yesterday is gone, tomorrow uncertain.  When we remember to ask for Gods help as we diligently pace ourselves, each day can be a blessing, and we can bless others.  I have to believe that is why I am still here.

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.  Colossians 1:11-12

Dear Loving God, We thank you for the gift of life in the form each of us has received it.  Help us to appreciate that gift, to use it wisely, to revel in its blessing and to bless others with its richness and glory.  Bless those who are traveling to spread your message of inclusiveness.  Let hearts, minds and doors truly be opened to all.  Amen.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Uniting and Inclusion -- Diane Mettam

I read a fascinating article this week, How to Recognize Evil.  While the key to recognizing evil took only four words, the rest of the article was riveting reading.  Basically, Love unites. Evil divides.[1]  Its that simple.  I spent most of the day mulling that over, and I realized it is right.  Evil divides.  Ghettoes.  Apartheid.  Separate but equal.  Colored waiting rooms, drinking fountains, restrooms.  The back of the bus.  Special education.  Wheelchair seating areas. 

When I was nine, I was identified as gifted and put into what was called the HAP program, High Academic Potential.  Once a week we were called out of our classroom and placed with a special teacher for enrichment activities.  All I knew was that somehow I was different, and I didnt like being different.  I didnt like being being noticed, pulled out of class, having the other kids wonder what was wrong with me. 

Now I tutor first and second graders who need extra help with reading and math, but I do it in the classroom.  All the children know me, and I actually work with all of them at times, when the aide is absent, or a parent volunteer doesnt show up, so there isnt much of a stigma attached to it.  Everyone seems to like spending time with Miss Diane.  But some of my students are also pulled out to the Learning Lab.  They dont seem to like leaving class. 

I dont want to suggest that the special education process is inherently evil, but how we separate students into special groups might be.  The school where I volunteer has a group of students with severe developmental delays.  They are kept separate from the rest of the student body, never interacting with the other children.  Is this considered mainstreaming?  I dont pretend to have any answers, but how will our children begin to know each other if they are kept apart in school?

Overt segregation by race is now considered unthinkable by most people, at least in public.  There is no more back of the bus.  But wheelchair seating is a ghetto of its own in most public facilities, a single area hollowed out of an auditorium, or the back row of a church, or the very front of a bus.  I realize this is probably cost-effective, or requires the least amount of work, but does it really integrate the wheelchair or walker user into the rest of society? 

Its funny, because I really dont think of myself as disabled, or a wheelchair user, until something reminds me of that fact.  Im just me.  I forget to mention that fact to people, and sometimes theyre surprised when I show up, and sometimes I cant get in a building, or find a place to sit, or I have to provide my own transportation to go somewhere with a group.  But I guess I just think the world should be open and accessible to everyone.  God unites. 

But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.  1 Corinthians 6:17

Dear Lord, Help us remember that in your kingdom it is not usagainst them,it is only we.  Help us to be inclusive, not exclusive, in all we think, say, and do.  Let us work to build a world that welcomes everyone, for we are all made in your image.  Amen.