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

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Secret Girl

I read a recent article in the January/February issue of the AARP newsletter (no cracks about my age please, my in laws graciously provided the article to me). Anyway, the magazine has an excerpt from a book entitled Secret Girl by Molly Bruce Jacobs, which is scheduled for release in March of this year (2006). I have not read the book, but would for the moment recommend the article. The book is about the placement of a girl in an institution by her family and her ultimate reuniting with her family through her sister, Molly. Here is a quote from the article/book.
The notion I'd conjured in my imagination decades ago-that Anne was my dark antithesis-faded rapidly. Instead I began to see her as my counterpart, one I'd lost touch with long ago. She had what the world I grew up in had supressed in me, what drinking had numbed. In spite of her disabilities, she was everything I wasn't, or what I'd imagined I wasn't allowed to be. She exuded the joie de vivre that dries up in you when you're raised to believe that the trophies and rewards you accumulate will make you happy, and that the pursuit of truth and beauty is only for dreamers and fools. Blue blooded manners had not made her self-conscious. The light in her eyes had not dimmed with complacency. Formality had not put a lid on her howls of laughter. If she felt like dancing, she danced-wherever she was. If she wanted to sing, she sang-whatever song happened to drift into her head. When she had an urge to smell your hair, your cheek, or a magazine, she leaned over and sniffed. She was in every sense of the term a free spirit.

You know that freedom that free spiritedness is something that persons with cognitive disabilities can bring to the church. The joy of life. The freedom of being unconcerned about the judgement of others.

In Becoming Human, Jean Vanier has a chapter called "The Path to Freedom." In it he writes,
We set out on the road to freedom when we no longer let our compulsions or passions govern us. We are freed when we begin to put justice, heartfelt relationships, and the service of others and the truth over and above our own needs for love and success or our fears of failure and of relationships.

The Church could learn these things if persons with cognitive disabilies were regularly in their midst. But in the same manner as Secret Girl, we have sent them away, at least in terms of not having them in our midst.

Molly Bruce Jacobs talks about how her sister asked her, "How was your vacation" because that is what her sister had been told as the reason no one had ever come to visit her. Your family is on vacation...for 30 years. Her response upon seeing her sister was not and angry "Where have you been for 30 years." It was a loving, and Jacobs argues, forgiving, "How was your vacation."

How was your vacation, Church?



impossibleape said...

Hi Jeff
You are so very good at helping us see the vision of an inclusive, accepting church.
Like Martin Luther King Jr.'s call for America to embrace a 'promised land' future, inspired people to do great things to overcome centuries of prejudice, the 'I Have a Dream' quality in your writings may help the churches see a future that values and includes the disabled.

And Oh what a glorious day that will be.

But we have miles to go before we sleep.

impossibleape said...

The quote you used from the article that showed how much the 'normal sister' recieved from having a relationship with the 'disabled' rejected one is what I hope the church will discover when it accepts that every human being is made in God's image and valued equally in the Father's love.

When the vacation is over perhaps the joy can start.

Anonymous said...

This article really opened my eyes to many things. One thing is that I need to make more contact with those who have disabilites. I was thinking about the "secret sister" and wondered about all of the people in her life that helped her as she went through her families absence. Maybe there could have been more to help her during this time. So often we think about the elderly that are left in their homes without any one to talk to. I don't even think of those who are left all of their lives because their parents left them. I know it is dangerous to comepare to types of people, but it just seems weird to me that there are many people who will go and visit the elderly, but not those that deal with having no family for all of their lives.... I don't know....

Anonymous said...

Recently I have had to look deep into my heart and think about how I felt about people with disabilities, and what I knew about them. I dont know anyone with a disability, and just recently met a few. I have to say that it changed my life forever. It changed my life for the better. At that moment in my life it was almost like I felt exactly what Molly Bruce Jacobs mentions in the article... feeling a sense of freedom. I felt like the people I had met were everything that I wasn't. They didn't have a care in the world it seemed, where people like me have everything to worry about; and they are almost always happy. Over the past few months, I have growm, learned, and grew a very soft spot for people with dissabilites. After reading the article I made a connection for myself that I have been looking for for a very long time. Though I wish I could have felt this years ago. The things that I have learned, experienced, and this article have opened my eyes and my heart in a whole different way. I am actually thankful that I was able to experience what I did, and that I was able to grow as an individual.

nwink2000 said...

I can't count how many times I have been to a church service and a person with a disibility has spoken out or acted out and an "innepropriate time". The action becomes the topic of conversation after church instead of the sermon. If people with disibilities were accpted into more church congregations, their actions would be normal and hopefully not reguarded as a distracting joke. I wish I had not been tainted by the judgements of others as this girl had been lucky to live without. As a church we shuld live as free spirits and not fear judgement. Jesus lived that way. He stirred up those around Him. Let's take his lead.

Anonymous said...

The quote you gave is such an eye opener. I get so caught up in the everyday dramas of work, school, homework, bills, etc. that I do not stop to think about what really matters: people and relationhships. I am so amazed that not only did the "normal" sister attempted to make contact with her disabled sister, but she formed a relationship with her and shared her life with her. More people need to look past the obstacles of what people might be facing and welcome them into the hearts and homes. I can't wait to purchase the book.

kim said...

This has been a very long week. I am tired...in my business, my duties, have I failed to see the sunshine? Have I shunned the oportunity to show compassion? To feel, to dance? My, oh my, how the worries and cares of this life can choke out the joy that God intends for us. In reverse of what Jean Varnier stated:
"We drudge down a burdensome road when we allow our compulsions and lusts rule us. We are bound when we forget justice and mercy, neglect heartfelt relationships, and the demand service from others, sacrificing the beauty of relationships to satisfy our own needs for love and success,and our fears of failure rather than truth." May the Church come into the light of God's truth and humble himself. Let the scholar and the illiterate embrace.
I would like to respond to a comment made by someone who mentioned that Mentally Disabled persons can disrupt the service. While order is necessary to allow all to hear and focus on the teaching, the disabled person should not be ostracized from the congregation. Individual Christians ought to reach out in a personal level and take care of his Secret Christian Sibling. What can I do on Sunday? What can you?

impossibleape said...

Hi Kim:
I loved the phrase you used;

"May the Church come into the light of God's truth and humble himself. Let the scholar and the illiterate embrace."

Is that yours or is from Jean Vanier?

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with this passage, we are so wrapped up in wordly things and how the world views us that we forget who we really are. We need to take people like in the story and apply them to our lives. I recently observed a child with down syndrome at Disneyland playing with his brother and their new Buzz Lightyear gun. He wasn't worried about the many people "trying not to stare" at him, he was just having fun with his brother. It saddens me to know that we put the things that have joy and love to the side...as a Christian and follower of Christ we need to seriously take that in consideration. DO we really want to conform to the world?