Standards and Fear
This world that we live in loves to set standards. Many of these standards are constantly morphing and even changing entirely into a new set of standards. But there are some however, that have never changed. While I could rant on and on about these ridiculous set of rules that society creates, there is one tonight that weighs heavily on my heart. A cripple, a mute, a learning disorder. A condition, an illness. Deaf, blind, or disfigured. Even the elderly. All of these people are rounded up by society, like animals in a zoo, being observed and gawked at. Tell me, when you pass by someone in the supermarket who sits in a wheelchair, what is your reaction? Do you give them an apologetic smile as you step aside? Do you make eye contact and try your hardest to act “normal”, or do you even go as far as acting as though they are not there. Perhaps you feel that if you acknowledge their existence, they will feel embarrassed, even humiliated. But then…maybe you are the embarrassed one.
My little sister is a free spirit, to say the least. While she was taking mud baths in the heat of summer, I was the one buried in books and art and things of that sort. She is the risk-taker, the bold one. Not only has she endured three major surgeries that have confined her wild heart to a wheel chair each time, she took it with a smile all three times. Now, my sister who’s wild heart was confined to a constant state of stillness, was presented with a great deal of time alone with her thoughts. Many of those thoughts that she shared had to do with her frustration involving the way people-the general public- were treating her because of the fact she was in a wheelchair. “They get so awkward, like they feel bad for me and don’t want to look at me,” she would say irritated, “I wish they would just treat me like a normal person.” They next time we went out, I watched, and to find that my younger sister was absolutely right. People’s reactions varied between two different extremes. One of these extremes was obvious eye contact, but in a condescending way. A look that said “I’m so sorry that you are the way you are.” And the other extreme being, obviously, the attitude that she was not ever there in the first place. Despite the maddening looks or lack there of, she pulled through those times of confinement time after time, and it never ceased to amaze me.
Now, several months later she was back on her feet again, but she had an accident and broke her arm (no one was surprised really). She chose the brightest, neon pink cast that she could choose. I still remember how she strutted out of the doctors office like she was on top of the world; as though she had forgotten that she had just broken her arm. Later on in the week my family took a trip to the mall, and I decided to observe the way people treated my sister this time. What I saw fascinated and disturbed me at the same time. Everywhere we went, she received warm, sympathetic smiles, and many times questions about what happened. Never in a million years would someone have asked her what happened when she was in her wheelchair. But this time, no one gave it a second thought. Why?
I came to the conclusion that we as humans, are afraid of permanence when it comes to our physical abilities or looks. When my sister was being wheeled around with a blanket draped over her legs, it seemed to others that her disability was permanent, for life, and to ask would be sensitive or rude. In my opinion this is an excuse to cover up our fear of breaking away from the worlds standards. When Macy sported her flamboyant pink cast, fear never played a factor, because people know that it will eventually come off, and all will be well.
I strongly dislike the word “disability”, because it suggests that a person is weak in every way. Perhaps they are weak according to the world, but their souls and hearts would tell you otherwise, if you took a peek inside. Have you ever met an autistic child? Those children know a joy that those who do not have autism never will. They feel emotion so deeply, and their laughter is one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard. Those who cannot hear sounds, see like those who can hear never will. The soft breeze of spring, and the first snowflake falling from the sky speak only to the blind. The paralyzed dance through life in their own lovely way. These people are called weak, and unable, but to me, they are the strongest of us all. The obstacles that they face, and the daunting challenges they endure are endless, yet they continue to give to the world and enrich it. They see the world in a way I never will be able to, and the things that can be learned from them are endless. God has given us all a purpose, he knows each person in a way more intimate than we can even fathom. I believe that what this world sees as a disability, God sees as an asset, a gift. Those that have this gift are so immensely strong, and so uniquely equipped to adorn our tired world with pockets of pure joy.
So again, we are brought to the question why? Why do we feel pity for those who do not meet the standards of this world? Who are we to define what is weak, and what is not? I do not intend for my words to be accusing, because we are all guilty of submitting to the fear of being different. I do however, intend to push you towards changing the way you think about these standards that we are so constantly and tirelessly exposed to. Why live in fear, when you could be who you are truly created to be and instead revel in the person that God has made you. Never has there been one like you, and never will there be, so why not step out of those confining standards and push the limits of greatness?