Dr. Samson Gandhi Executive Director Person to Person – Institute for Christian Counselling Hyderabad
Pain is the chief human problem. Peace is the result of resolving such pain. There are many forms of pain but primarily physical and emotional. Doctors prescribe pain-killers and sedatives to manage pain. A whole branch of medicine called palliative care is dedicated to the treatment of pain in terminally ill patients. But what about emotional pain? Theologically speaking all pain is the result of the original sin of Adam, then generational sins of ancestors, collective sin of society and personal sin. To negate that pain of guilt and provide peace, Jesus paid the price on the cross and ushered in the kingdom of God. It is the God of this kingdom and the subjects of this King who will facilitate peace that is full of hope.
Anyone can be born blind, deaf and dumb or lame and become physically challenged. Some are born mentally retarded, autistic or intellectually challenged. A few others become physically or intellectually challenged due to biological disorders or accidents. Some others are stricken by cancers or become HIV+ and become AIDS affected. Whatever the cause, they become the responsibility of the so called able bodied and intellectually abled people. The main part of that responsibility is to be able to treat them with dignity. Then they feel valued. That is the first step of being human.
Unfortunately, many such people are discriminated against and therefore feel rejected even humiliated. It is in our culture that guilt and shame is attached to disability. When a girl is born, there is no celebration. She is not provided the same opportunities as the boy in the family. When cancer strikes, it is blamed on karma, reaping the consequences of sins of past life. It is true that neither the Bible mentions such a belief nor is it taught in the churches. But as we live among our Hindu friends we absorb their beliefs and our beliefs affect our living. Jesus silenced such a prospect once for all when he said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this has happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life (John 9:3).” Jesus not only delinks human suffering to either past sins or present but declares the outworking of God in such people.
Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan was lame in both his feet. He was on invalid. Moreover, after the death of Saul, he was like a fugitive, on the run from King David. But David shows great kindness. He instructs that Mephibosheth always eats at the king’s table thereby ensuring that he is treated with dignity and respect and protected from all harm. David did not discriminate him based on his physical disability.
Down the history we have many ‘heroes’ of faith who overcame their disability and became an inspiration to many. Helen Keller is one of them. She was born on June 27, 1880 and died on June 1, 1968. She was deaf and blind. In 1904, at the age of 24, she became the first graduate in arts from Radcliff College, Massachusetts, USA. She went on to become an American Author, political activist and lecturer. But who was behind her success?
Anne Sullivan, an American teacher noticed Helen Keller’s desire and became her personal instructor and life-long companion. Anne Sullivan was able to see beyond her disability and helped realize her full potential. Celebrated author Mark Twain was an admirer of Helen Keller and facilitated her education. We see that caring people and accepting society had defining role in Helen Keller’s life. I like a quote that is attributed to her: “It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.”
Jethro is a modern day beacon of light for hope to all those who are disabled and to all who wait and serve them. Jethro was born on December 10th, 1995. He was a bundle of joy to his parents when he was born but soon the doctors pronounced the unimaginable. He was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and Microcephaly. Eventually, all his four limbs were useless; his speech was impaired totally. His head flopped and did not stand erect. He would drool saliva without sufficient control. Doctors cautioned his parents that Jethro would probably just a ‘vegetable’.
His daunting parents and his indomitable sister never ignored him or neglected him. They restructured their entire lives to provide every comfort, attention and care to Jethro. Basking in their love, he blossomed in spite of being a ‘vegetable’. He even composed poems through a sign language of his shoulders. At four he composed this poem:
“Little nose to the north;
South hardly behind;
East on the sunrise side;
At about sixteen, he composed eleven verses and one of that is:
“Your mind is place where battles are fought;
Your strengthen it with good, for you to be victor;
You let it be filled with evil, for you to be a failure.”
Not every deaf and blind person like Helen Keller can find a Anne Sullivan nor a ‘vegetable’-like Jethro find a loving family. But then Christ came that we may all became the family of God and show love to such courageous souls who stretch beyond every limitation – physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. The body of Christ – the church – must speak, inspire and act on behalf of such people. (For more on Jethro: jethrodaniel10.blog.com)
In Matthew 25: 31-46, Jesus talks about hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick and the prisoners. There he clearly advocates action and compassion to such helpless and hopeless people. In fact, it is not an option but a commandment. If we ignore it we stand condemned.
Practically, we all can do our bit when we come across such people.
1. Be accepting of them. Show it in your attitude with a smile.
2. Be caring in giving priority to them in seating, allowing them to go ahead in the queues.
3. Be kind to them by opening doors for them.
4. Strike a conversation with them and talk about topics of their interest.
5. Find out from them if in some way you can help them.
6. Support institutions that care for them by giving you time, talent and treasure.
7. Involve yourself in advocacy. Speak up for them so that budgets are allocated to make better facilities for them.
8. To better appreciate their hardships try and live like them – become ‘blind’ for one hour; become ‘dumb and deaf’ for one hour. Try doing things without the use of your right hand or a leg. We will learn to better empathize with them.
9. Learn sign language and become a help to them.
10. Do the greatest of all: pray for them. If you truly pray, God will speak to you to get involved.
Paul writing to Corinthians said, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Let us by faith in love give hope to the hopeless.