Saturday, July 31, 2010

Going Public

There have been times when it seemed right to tell you about my limitations. Maybe this is it.

In 2000, I was diagnosed with idiopathic progressive peripheral neuropathy. These big words mean that no one has any idea what started the process so there's no treatment or cure, but I'm gradually losing the use of the nerves in my arms and legs. This loss has become more apparent to me this summer as rather simple chores around the house have become taxing. Friends say, "But surely you can hire someone to help you." While that's true my dilemma is that if I start giving up trying to take care of the garden and pond, I may also lose the use of those muscles more rapidly. So I'm constantly pushing the envelope, trying to do the most I can without putting myself in a crisis that would require stronger drugs. The situation makes life interesting. Oh, I need two crutches to walk now.

This is brings me to an observation I made during the past year. When anyone sees me coming, he or she knows that I have limitations, but what about all of those who are consumed by problems that are not visible? While attending a retreat last fall, there were several women who mentioned complex family situations or mental health problems they had to address daily. It truly made my illness seem minimal. When I go out, people may hold a door for me or try to assist in another way, but how to we treat others whose needs are not visible?

It distresses me that as a people, we've become more judgemental of others, especially anyone who may be 'different.' In fact, we don't know what factors brought them to their point of need. Rather than understand, we 'judge' them as unworthy of inclusion or meriting help. With all the divisiveness in our country, it seems that we are undermining basic care and concern for each other. Seldom to we push the envelope to extend a helping hand or friendship first.

When I was a missionary nurse in Africa, I worked in two countries that were waging wars for independence. Hospital staff never asked whose side the injured person was on, we took care of them. In health care, you don't ask endless questions in an emergency, but provide care, stabilize the person and maybe you get a chance to talk later. The phrase wasn't common at the time, but we were pushing the envelope because we knew that government forces could challenge us.
I wonder how I can push the envelope today.

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