Time for another wake-up call! I like to think that I wholeheartedly give support to other persons with disability and the poor; and I hold no prejudices where they are concerned. Well, a few minutes ago, I received a phone call from a young man I met in Ghana years ago. My mother answered the phone and beckoned that he wanted to speak to me. I heard myself sigh with frustration, as I did not want to be my usual hypocritical self. I was thinking, ‘all he ever wants is help I cannot give, to come to Canada or to make money!’
I had to laugh, when I realized the article I was writing. My heart then opened wide-up and I went to get the phone with optimism. We had a great conversation, including how I could show him how to use the Internet to sell some merchandise from Ghana. I was blessed by this call, for he has been calling for some time, but my heart was never open enough to hear him and look at any possible help I could give to a young man trying to develop himself.
The poor and the rich, the disabled and able-bodied, are two sides of love, which are needed to make us complete. The more physically and financially able are used to grow the humility, perseverance, acceptance, and gratitude of the disabled and the poor. The disabled and the poor are vehicles used to grow the humanity and love of the more physically and financially able. I grew my humanity when I realized how I was behaving towards my Ghanaian friend.
Experiencing Our Humanity: Going From the Fortunate to the Less Fortunate Side of Our Being
Some of you have heard me say that a few years ago, I was making a good income and walking around like I was a young lady in my 20’s or 30’s, proudly feeling healthier and fitter than others. Then my day of atonement came, and I fell so deep into reality, I almost never came back.
One day, Stoke took it all. That one day was the beginning of a journey marked by serious illness, disability and financial scarcity. Due to other related misfortunes, I had to depend on the Canadian government’s disability program for income. To some, I became a victim, intentionally living off the government. The sad part is that I use to be one of those people, thinking less of those who received support from the government to live, hiding my humanity with my ‘holier than thou’ attitude.
The shoe was on the other foot and it hurt like heck to experience what others thought of me. For example, six months after my stroke, when I was still partially paralyzed, unable to speak clearly, and determined to be permanently disabled by my doctor, my mother took me to Social Services to apply for disability benefits. I was initially turned down; the government representative, who handled my case, wrote that I was obviously pretending so I could take advantage of the System. I was painfully discarded by an individual, whose prejudice buried her humanity. I did not have the strength or facility to appeal; fortunately with the help of another, that decision was quickly overturned, but the words still remain on my file.
In another telling situation, representatives of an international organization on which I serve, displayed frustration and said ‘why should the organization pay for internet access, to allow remote participation to those who cannot attend on-site meetings, when people (like me) are intentionally unwilling to pay the costs of travelling to attend such meetings.’ There appeared little acknowledgement of the realities (such as grave disability, inability to work, and low-income) that prevent some people from jet setting at will across this continent and the world. There appeared little humanity.
Today I thank God for opening my eyes, by blessing me in the place of a person with disabilities and financial scarcity. It is not so much that I experienced the blessings of kindness and love, but that I have been forced to be dependent on others, be humble, and have gratitude for my blessing. Having being disabled and without much income, I will fight my being so that I will never look down on others who are less fortunate, never look down on me, and be whatever help I can be. I will fight like heck to keep my humanity. I will forever cherish the blessings of both sides of my being, the times of fortune and misfortune.