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

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Christmas" "Comer" "Bible"

There is a man in the group at our church named Eddie. He is a person affected by significant cognitive disabilities. Because of this disability, he has limited language, although based upon his language you would easily tell that Christmas is his favorite time of year. He uses words like, "Christmas tree" and "Santa Claus" and "presents" among a few others. Recently, however, Eddie added the word "Bible" to his cadre of words. When he would approach me he would now not only say "comer" or words associated with Christmas, he would also now say "Bible." I would respond, "Would you like a Bible?" and he would shake his head yes. Well, I finally got with it and found a Bible for him. I am actually in the process of reviewing picture Bibles to determine what one I would recommend as being the most appropriate for adults with cognitive disabilities. Most of them are very childish in their presentation (they are largely designed for children) or include stories that are not very applicable to adults (or even kids for that matter...one depicts Absalom being yanked from his horse, by the hair, by a tree branch, and another Mary and Joseph on the way to Bethlehem being surrounded by lions).

Anyway, I arrived at one that seemed the most appropriate in the short term, removed some of the childish aspects of it and wrapped it up for Eddie as a Christmas present. He opened it up last week and literally sat for most of the half hour we met just looking through the pages. As I watched him, I wondered what the meaning of all of this was? His requesting a Bible, then receiving one, and then enjoying it.

I can recall at past Christimas parties Eddie would want a book as a Christmas present so perhaps there is an interest in books overall. It could also be that because many others in our group do bring Bibles perhaps he noticed them as well. When we are sitting at tables for the Bible study part of our group, others around him also would open up books as I was talking. So somewhere that interest developed and grew. I am unsure of how he he learned the word "Bible" although the fact that he did is a good sign, I think. It is indicative of the environments that he finds himself in (see http://disabledchristianity.blogspot.com/search?q=bert posting for a very different environment and how the words used by a person with severe cognitive disabilities reflect that environment). People around him be they those of us at church, or those in his home where he lives have used the word sufficiently enough that it has appeared on his radar screen and now is a part of his vocabulary. He knows what a Bible is (I suspect his understanding is that it is a book that people look at) and he wanted one based upon the request he made to me. Interesting from a special education perspective that he has learned to come to church, come to me and say "comer" and I would give him a donut or something. He then comes to me saying "Bible" with the assumption that I would also give him a Bible. I wonder what the next new request will be?

There is also a membership component of wanting a Bible. The people around him and he himself are all a part of this group. It is a group that he gets into his van, and travels for 15 minutes to go to. They are friendly to him, they interact with him, the listen to him, they seem to like him and they give him good food to eat. But perhaps he noticed that they all had something that he didn't have, a book called a Bible. So in order to be a full member of this group, he needed to have one of these Bibles as well. It is like the initiation into the group.

On a deeper spiritual level, I am unsure what this is all about. Isaiah 55:11 says,

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me
empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter
for which I sent it.

That is something that we know. So God's word in the form of a picture Bible is accomplishing something, I would hope. I trust in that promise, however, I also use what I know about pedagogy to facilitate spiritual development in people who have the characteristic of an intellectual disability. I use the knowledge that people have gained to provide the best Christian education I can without exclusively relying on miracles for someone to learn something. God can use our efforts whatever they may be. However, we should not ignore the knowledge we have about how people learn and rely exclusively on miracles as the way people learning anything about God. Our creedo should not be, "Come to our church...it will be a miracle if you learn anything!"
Finally, it is interesting how Eddie, arguably the person who experiences the most significant disability of our group is in some ways providing leadership in this area. I have already heard from at least one other person, "I want a Bible like Eddie's." It is my plan to work through the various picture Bibles as I have said above and provide the best of the group to anyone who would want one, but I may have to speed up that process because of Eddie's example of relishing in his new Bible

It was also funny how once he had it, he would not share it with anyone, even to look at it. I don't know how he will be in the future, but he really valued his Bible, and kept it close like a prized posession even though he probably didn't understand what all the pictures meant, or what the Bible even stands for. It is my prayer that I, as someone who does know what the Bible says, and who can read it to understand it even more, that I may value it like Eddie does; a man with limited understanding.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After reading your description of Eddie, it struck me that perhaps he is a living example of what it is to hunger for the word and to love the Lord with all your heart.

I had a home teacher from my church once who had a cognitive disability. He taught me how to love the Lord more wholeheartedly. Seeing the picture of Eddie reminded me how much I miss him.

Thanks again for your blog, I wish you could mail it to every pastor/priest/congregation. People really need to hear it but so far as a person with a disability, I have failed to get through. Those that need to read this the most would never see the need to come read what you write.