“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Friday, November 05, 2004

Understanding Social Support

Social support has been defined by Cobb (1976) in the following manner.

Social Support is "information" leading someone to believe
  • He/she is cared for
  • He/she is loved
  • He/she is valued
  • He/she is esteemed
  • He/she belongs to a network of communication and mutual obligation

Cobb states that, this information fulfills social needs and protects from adverse consequences.

Robertson et al. (2004) observed that among persons with mental retardation (in particular) living in community group homes, 3-4% had a "neighbor" with out mental retardation. Overall, they had 3 or fewer persons in their social network (most often staff or family) and 10% had nobody.

I know I too can do much better in this area, but I provide an exhortation nonetheless.

If you were to ask me what a neighbor is (I hope you are not trying to justify yourself) I would refer you to Luke 10:29 and following where Jesus provides a good definition in the form of a parable. In case you are unfamiliar with the Bible, it is the story of the "Good Samaritan" which has become a part of culture, at least in America.

If you were to see someone lying along side of the road beat up and hurt, would you say, "I don't know what to do because I don't have any training" and then walk on? Of course not, you would do what you could do. Unfortunately, the most common excuse I have heard from Christian churches or Christian individuals as to why they aren't reaching out to persons with disability is "I don't have any training." Perhaps Jesus should have added that excuse in the story of the Good Samaritan. He might have said,

"But by coincidence, a certain priest was going on that road; and seeing him, he passed on the opposite side. A 20th century church member came upon the man and said to himself, 'I don't have any training, so it is not my responsibility to help this man' and continued on so he wouldn't miss The Simpsons. And in the same way, a Levite also being at the place, coming and seeing him, he passed on the opposite side."

At the NACSW conference, Jim Wallis (Call to renewal) spoke of an inner city worker who made the comment, "We are the people we have been waiting for" and spent herself working with persons in inner city Washington D.C.

Perhaps my altered version of the story of the Good Samaritan might be further changed in the following manner.

"But a certain traveling Samaritan came upon him, and seeing him, he was filled with pity, and said to himself, 'We are the people we have been waiting for. I am the person I have been waiting for.' And coming near, he bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine . . ."

If not you, who. If not now, when.



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