A man with a grateful heart

A man with a grateful heart

Have we sometimes fostered a false sense of entitlement within the mentally challenged community?  I’ve sat in after-session conferences and heard street-wise, high functioning self-advocates teach other mentally challenged self-advocates how to beat the system.  They were able to instruct their peers about legal ways to get things to which they aren’t entitled.  

While I do understand how important self-advocacy is–and that isn’t the point of this entry–where is the responsibility that must accompany each privilege?  And the benefits that we as a community enjoy are a privilege.  Someone, in fact lots of someones, have to work hard to pay the taxes to provide for the funding on which we live.  Please let me make this clear, I firmly believe that the State should take care of the men and women who populate this community.  Yet, I also believe that as a community we must not ever take for granted the things we have been given.

As a parent, I would kill myself and scrap, doing without in order to insure that my children had the things they needed.  The only times it chaffed was when they showed an attitude of ingratitude. This is true with everyone.  No one wants to be taken for granted.

About a year ago, I connected with an old friend.  Nan had been working for about six years with Americorp.  She endeavors to place senior citizens in semi-volunteer jobs so that they can make financial ends meet.  During our lunch she made a startling statement.  “I’m sure you know,” she said, carefully folding her napkin, “that the disabled community get all the benefits.  No one cares about the elderly.”

The reason that was shocking to me was that I had often heard and even said myself, “In Florida, the elderly have a powerful lobby.  They get all the benefits.  No one cares about people who are disabled.”  Perhaps rather than expecting that others must continue to work hard to provide for me, it’s time for me as a recipient of government funding to realize that there is only so much pie to go around.   And I should be grateful for the things I do have.

The Specia Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community evangelizes and disciples this important population.  We don’t receive any government funding.  Our main support comes from about 100 local churches in two states.  However, I must confess that I’ve greedily looked at the budget of some churches Christmas program and realized that they allot more for a Christmas padgent than our entire year’s budget.  Then I compare the amount they give to evangelize the mentally challenged community to that budget and I’ve chaffed.  However, that is not right.  I must constantly remind myself that this is their money and this congregation can spend it any way they see fit.   

Does that mean that I believe that we can’t fight for more funding?  Of course not but we must be sure that we maintain a grateful heart and a humility while endeavoring to be sure that we are given the correct proportion of the money pie.  Haughtiness will only make other people bristle.  Gratefulness and sincerity are virtures that still reap great dividends in the marketplace and in the hearts of hard-working people.

What are some ways that you have seen gratefulness exhibited within your membership?