November 2009


The Church helps people

Galatians 6:9

Central Theme:  Helping others must be our everyday business.

Introduction–Show a graduation invitation.  We send out wedding invitation and graduation invitations because it is a way that people can help others.  We are supposed to give gifts when we get these invitations.  We give showers and parties where we bring gifts.  Our society understands that we need to help each other.  This is one way to help people out.  The church is a place where much of this kind of tradition began.  We at Special Gathering should begin to think about how we can help other.

                    Have a member read Galatians 6:9.

       I.     Tell the story found in the Book of Acts about the seven men who were selected to be special helpers. 

              A. These jobs were not jobs of prestige or privilege but service.

              B. Our deacons are people who have proven to be servers.

              C. We want people who are willing to help others.

 

      II.     In the disability community, we are accustomed to other people helping us.

 

              A. We think, “How can I get better services from the state.”

 

                   1. We don‘t often think, “How can I help someone else with what I have.” 

                       A.  We must begin to think about how we can help others.

                       B.   Maybe you would like to give a little more in the offering because your offering pays for transportation.

                             1.  $2.50 a week pays for your transportation but what about the person who cannot give $2.50?

 

Conclusion  We should begin to think about how God can use us to help others with the money and things we have.

With funds being cut from the State of Florida, I occasionally hear of people who are really hurting.  Perhaps this would be a way to help off-set some of your expenses if yours or your child’s transportation funding has been cut.

Subject: Free Gas USA

Dear Friends,

We would like to let you know about an opportunity to get some
financial support to help out with your family’s fuel costs. A
non-profit organization called Free Gas USA is now accepting
applications for grants to individuals to help with the purchase of
gasoline for personal use.

To qualify, all you have to do is complete an application form. To
view the application and read more about the program, please visit.
http://www.freegasusa.org <javascript:void(0);/*1258046016858*/>
.

Thanks,

The Family Cafe

Harold isn’t my favorite person within the mentally challenged community.  His personality isn’t structured in the Down’s syndrome,  stereo-typical mold.  Harold speaks too loudly and talks too much.  He is delights in getting in people’s personal space and staying there until they are so irritated and uncomfortable that they must ask him to move.  Harold is neither shy nor coy.  He isn’t small but a large framed man who is pretty impressive.

There is one thing about Harold that does inspire me, though.  He is not naive.  In II Timothy chapter 3, Paul told Timothy, “Do not be naive.”  This is an interesting phrase that seems to slap in the mouth many of our stereo-typical Christian personality molds.  After all, the common idea is that Christians should be weak and sloppily syrupy.  That includes a childish naivety.   Of course, this isn’t the picture that is painted of an effective Christian and Paul nails the coffin on sapability by declaring, “Do not be naive.”

Many people within the mentally challenged community are naive and gullible.  They will believe anything that is spooned to them from someone who they perceive as an important or powerful person.  There needs to be careful safeguards held over professionals who work with this population because this kind of simplistic gullibility makes them easy prey.  A recent study by the Pew Center showed that the disability community is 40 percent more likely to be victimized than other portions of the population.

Harold isn’t going to allow anyone to take advantage of him.  He is not naive regarding the tactics of others.  Years ago, he told me about an encounter he had with several high school jocks at McDonalds.  When he walked into the restaurant, they began to hoot and holler.  They threw around the “R” word and insulted him for the entire time he was eating his hamburger.  After he finished, Harold took his garbage to the trash can and then he walked to their table.  Standing over them with his large and impressive frame, he said, “I might be mentally retarded,” he conceded, “but I’m not stupid and I’m not rude and you are.” 

Impressed, I asked him “What did they say?”

“Nothing,” Harold said, with a sly grin.

It would have been easy for Harold to slink from the restaurant, avoiding the young men.  Yet, he didn’t.  Again and again, I’ve seen Harold skillfully manuever people who try to mistreat him.  Often, he faces them down. 

We are not sure why Paul said to his good friend, Timothy, “Don’t be naive.”  Nevertheless, it could be that because he was a young man people were trying to take advantage of him.  The word naive speaks of having a lack of experience in life and showing unaffected simplicity.  At times, like Harold, you are not able to change people who are attacking you. Yet, Paul is saying, “Don’t be so lacking in sophistication that other can harm you without your knowledge.”

There have been times that I have seen people being verbally destroyed by others.  In fact, I’ve been naive at times.  When I discovered that attacks were coming, I learned that where possible I should speak personally to people who were trying to attack my reputation.  Harold met his oppressors with truth and skill that was beyond his IQ level.

Being naive doesn’t mean that you will confront everyone.  It does mean that you will not live your life with an armor of fluff and frills.

 

The first time I remember reading the verse in Titus, “Don’t allow others to despise you,” was about 25 years ago.  During that time there were quite a few people who had been my friends but had decided that they didn’t like me.  The verse spoke so directly to my situation that I thought that perhaps I had misread it.  I was working with the youth department in a large church that had several pastors on staff.  I went to the pastor who was known for his Biblical and theological knowledge.

“Does this verse mean what it says?”  I asked him.

He casually looked up from his paperwork and said, “Sure.  It means what it says.”  He went back to his paperwork, politely dismissing me from his office.

Not satisfied, I went to my reference books and my diaglot and Greek lexicon.  Amazingly from my research, I found that this verse meant what it said.  However, I had no idea how to make this verse viable in my life.  What steps do you take to make this simple principle a reality?

For years, I pondered the question until one Sunday afternoon I learned how to put action into the scriptural words.  It was a hot steamy afternoon at camp.  Each year, for Memorial Day weekend, Special Gathering rents out a youth campground in Vero Beach.  We takes about 200 people to Life for Youth Ranch for four days.  There are between ten to 14 people in each cabin.  The cabins are divided between men and women. 

Sunday afternoon, Laura was changing her clothes.  She is a lower functioning young woman whose bed was right at the doorway.  After completely disrobing, Laura stood over her bed and examined her clothes trying to decide what to wear.  At that point, one of the other women, Mercy, opened the door from the outside.  Seeing her unclothed friend leaning unceremoniously over her luggage at the front door, Mercy stood at the doorway, with the door swinging wide open.  Laura looked up and screamed, “Shut the door!” 

Startled by her screaming friend, Mercy seemed to freeze.  She continued to stand outside the cabin with the door wide open.  I was standing behind Mercy.  Quickly, I went into the cabin, closed the door and quietly maneuvered Laura from the doorway.  When Mercy regained her composure, she reopened the door.  Though out of the way of the door and almost dressed, Laura again screamed, “Shut that door!”

Like many of our members, Mercy is a woman who speaks only a few words.  However, she walked over to Laura and in a calm voice she said, “I’m not used to people talking to me like that.  Don’t scream at me again.”

Laura seemed shocked.  Mercy’s steadfast and calm attitude totally defused Laura’s anger.

From Mercy, I learned some simple steps “for not allowing people to despise you.”

  • First, go to the person who is showing contempt to you.  Mercy faced Laura and spoke to her directly.
  • Second, remain calm and polite.  Even though, Laura had lost her temper, Mercy did not. 
  • Third, explain in as few words as possible the action you believe needs to stop. Mercy told Laura, “Don’t scream at me again.”
  • Fourth, with only a sentence or two, let your combatant know why you will not allow the action to continue.  “I’m not used to people talking to me like that,” Mercy said.
  • Fifth, keep your reasoning simple and clear.  Saying fewer words in this case will usually mean less continued tension and have the greatest impact.

Once again, I learned a scriptural principle played out in the life experiences in a person who is mentally challenged.  Sometimes the most difficult to understand principles need the simplicity of an uncomplicated mind to sift it into workable steps.

I’m often amazed at how the mentally challenged community weathers their greatest times of stress.  During my first few years of ministry with Special Gathering, I thought it was because they simply didn’t understand what was happening.  However, over the years, I’ve learned that our members watch the news and follow current events.  Most of them understand the world around them.

Some of them are more keenly atoned to outside events than those folks who are considered normal.  The last year of his life, Eric started carrying a calendar wherever he went.  “It’s three months and 7 days until hurricane season,” he would update me each week when I picked him up for our Saturday program. 

Before the next hurricane season, Eric died of hepatitis that resulted from a tainted blood transfusion which he had received as an infant.  He was only a kid, about 22 years old.  Born with Downs syndrome, he was a happy person who had a passion for football and swords, Superman and that last year, hurricanes.  Some of his disability lay within the autism spectrum. 

Eric became sick shortly after Hurricanes Frances and Jean roared through Indian River County, Florida.  While he was in a securely ensconced in a Federal building during the storms, he was greatly impressed by the events.  At first he seemed greatly stressed and confused by the approaching tropical storm season.  Then one Saturday, he didn’t bring his calendar.  “Where’s your calendar?” I inquired.

“I left it at home,” he assured me.  Then patting me on the shoulder as though to calm my concerns, he said,  “It’s all right though.  I’m still keeping track of the storms.” 

Slowly, he was able to completely drop his concerns.  The Bible teaches us in II Timothy that God will look after us.  Eric seemed to grow into that comforting knowledge through the next months in which we would see the end of his life.

I read recently, “Stressed is desserts spelled backwards.”  The upside down side of being under stress is something wonderful, if we allow God’s Spirit to work in our lives.  Eric learned his lesson well.

A couple of days before he died, I visited Eric in his home.  We talked about his relationship with the Lord.  Wanting to be sure that I’d touched all the bases, I pointedly asked, “Eric, have your asked Jesus to be your best friend and to take away all the bad things you’ve done?”

Eric looked at me with a disappointed and childlike quizzical expression.  “You know I have,”  he said with confidence.

“Yes.  I did know that,” I said wanting to erase the disappointment from his expression, “but I needed to be sure.” 

Wanting to change the subject, I inquired,  “Where’s your hurricane calendar?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t need it now,”  he said honestly. 

Even at this young age, while facing death Eric had been able to turn his stress point upside down and inside out and it had become confidence in God’s grace and mercy.  That’s a great dessert for the ending of any life.

He is a handsome Jamaican whose family migrated from the Northeast to Florida when his parents retired from their work. For a couple of years, I thought Paul was non-verbal.  When I made him angry one Sunday after chapel services, I found that Paul is definitely able to speak.  In fact, even though I was shocked, his scolding, rapid-fire lecture, pleased me beyond measure.

Paul listens to music via his ear phones almost incessantly.  The vehicle carrying the tunes has progressed from a tape recorder to a CD player to an MP player.  However, the music has not changed.  He listens to opera and Christian music.

Paul is a quiet, dynamic Christian whose life is simple.  Work, home, bed.  On Sunday, the routine changes a bit.  Chapel, home, bed.  Some weeks the city bus that picks him up for chapel has been late.  On those weeks, Paul gets on his bicycle, in his best suit and tie and rides the ten miles to Special Gathering. In the Florida heat, that is no small feat.  No matter how much his parents and I have tried to discourage him from riding his bike on those mornings, he is not deterred.  He doesn’t say a word.  But we can see in his eyes that his resolve remains.  His commitment to worship remains the bedrock of his existence.

Whether at his work or at church, Paul often reaches over to touch my head.  Somehow, I knew that this was his way of blessing me.  However, years ago, I asked.  “Why do you put your hands on my head whenever you see me?’

“I’m blessing you,”  Paul said with a slight stutter.  Over the years, I periodically ask the same question.  His answer is always the same.  I’ve been deeply impressed with his lack of false humility.  He does not say, “I’m praying that God will bless you.”  He says, “I’m blessing you.”

In I Timothy 2, Paul tells Timothy, his son in the faith, “Live simply, in humble contemplation.”  While many Special Gathering members live this out in their daily lives, none are as consistent as my friend, Paul.

My life was turned upside down a few years ago when much of our house was damaged by Hurricanes Frances and Jean.  Frances started the havoc and Jean completed the task.  In the process, we realized that we needed to remake part of my office into a disability accessible bathroom to meet the increasing needs of my husband.  Most of the house rocked in upheaval during the transition.  I relived those months recently as I endured the transformation of our kitchen, family room and pantry. 

My life was no longer simple, during those weeks.  I had no water.  The most common tasks meant that I had to transport water from our back yard or the bathroom to the kitchen.  Water had to be heated, then reheated.  I couldn’t find any of the food or utensils I needed to prepare meals. 

Even my Special Gathering  endeavors were much harder.  I couldn’t locate the information I needed to update my data base.  I had no idea whether I would have internet access or not.  I seemed to spend my day uncovering and discovering where I had put valued papers, rather than actually getting tasks completed. 

I relished the times I spent with folks like Sam.  While my life was upside down, I wanted to be near someone who still had a parcel of sanity in their lives.  Sam would come to me and put his hands on my head and smile.  In many ways, God began to speak to me through this valued friend’s blessings.  “Your life will settle down.  You will be able to get through this.” 

Sam wouldn’t speak or even smile but I knew that his blessings were helping me to maneuver through the overwhelming waves of turmoil and confusion that were threatening to capsize my small, leaking vessel.  I’m grateful for Sam’s simple life of humble contemplation because during my time of stress and confusion, I could depend on his peace to help guide me to a safe harbor in spite of the complicated seas.

Because I did not get this Waiver Coordinator’s permission to use this e-mail, I’ve not included his name.  However, he is known in this district as probably the best of the best and I have included his picture.

I wish I had an answer to all of your questions, Richard Stimson from his November 7 post. And he makes many really good points here. It’s a real set of dilemmas (not just one). And my time in this pond has made me clear about a few things, one of them with direct regards to the Waiver is that there were always titanic forces present motivated to it’s demise. We have to remember some history. Lawton Chiles was Governor at the time and it was my impression that he opted to make ‘a deal with the devil.’ I don’t remember any evidence that he felt the federal Waiver was a ‘good’ idea, rather it was a clever way to extend funding at a time when Florida was in another financial crisis (nothing like the one we have today though).

*I was one of many who pushed hard for the medical model. It has it’s flaws and drawbacks for certain. But again, let’s keep history in mind. Prior to it there was NO system for deciding who got what and how much they got of it. Who of us can forget the abject arbitrariness of the HRS days? It was those of us who courted relationships with HRS managers (we all remember their names), allowed ourselves as WSC’s to be verbally and emotionally abused (!!) for the sake of our clients because after a beat-down session with a state worker they were more agreeable to giving us the respite for Johnny or the Companion for Sue. Medical model directly attempted to address fairness–a way of evaluating need. It’s day may well be over (and that’s fine)–but you’d better have something in place to replace it or I guarantee you will like the vacuum even less. Rules and a system are especially important in a time of chaos like this.

Something else that you touch on that I have been thinking a lot about over the years. What exactly are we doing with developmentally disabled people? (*Such a non-descript, inaccurate term—mentally handicapped describes it better I think.) In my 16 years doing this I can count on one hand the number of disabled people I have seen become more independent. Who were we kidding anyway with the sales pitch that a mentally handicapped person was going to achieve enough of the independence skills needed to be less dependent on someone else? It’s happened, and I’ve seen it (been a part of it I’d like to think), but it’s rare and the majority of my work has been spent sending in supports that were more permanent in nature. Not trying to be mean here. It just seems to be the nature of the beast. It’s a permanent condition. Whereas some learn and retain a few skills, many (most?) may learn a FEW skills that they rapidly lose and some don’t learn too many skills at all. Again, some do learn some things and retain them and that is great.

But it makes more sense to me to have a system that would allow us to have different goals for different disabled people; as every person is different so is the manifestation of disability in each mentally handicapped person. You folks may not know some of the silliness I have experienced in my day as a WSC (I like to suffer in silence!). Like the monitoring I went through 2 years ago where the Delmarva reviewer was insistent that a very disabled gentleman (everyone agrees he is p-r-o-f-o-u-n-d) was not experiencing enough choice in his life. Even though he has never expressed preference of any kind. Poor guy doesn’t express much of anything period. End solution was to run a program to ensure that he was given the chance to express preference on the temperature of the water in the bath. (footnote: to date no data on expressed preference is available–still waiting) There are people we maintain and others we are moving in a direction on and I don’t mind helping both types. But the system maybe does now.

A word about pressure (this maybe a law of the system). If you don’t apply pressure in the direction you want things to go you will be pushed to the bottom of the heap. Not as elegant as Newton’s first law of motion, but you get the point. In our current system the loudest or glitziest voice (almost regardless of the substance) gets the victory. If you don’t fight you will get left with very little. There needs to be an equal and opposite reaction as there are a lot of forces at work in a declining budget situation.

It’s hard to argue about the wait list from where I sit. My position is fairly clear (there are some muddy parts to it). I’ve always used the butter analogy. Spread it too thin and you might as well not use it at all because it doesn’t taste like anything. The fundamental question: Do we serve a few people well or everyone poorly? I say maximize the effectiveness of your funds and serve whoever you can well and not everyone poorly. Easy for me to say, I know. And it’s hard to argue when you look at the fact that so many initially added to the waiver in the beginning might not have been the most needy.

Just some thoughts.

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