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

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Models of acceptance

A few weeks back, I went to pick up a man with disabilities who lives at a retirement home, mostly for seniors. Typically when I go to pick him up, he is asleep in his chair, and has to go through a variety of varying routines before we can leave (which is why I am pretty much always late for church). Anyway, as I waited for him, his room mate was awake, sitting in a chair. Before him sat his breakfast which he was largely unaware of. He is a man of about 70, obviously in later stages of alzheimers disease. As he sat there, he had a running diatribe with someone who wasn't there, but was very real to him. The conversation went something like this. " You (deleted) I'm going to kill you. I am going to (deleted). You (deleted)." I think you get the idea. Violent language littered generously with various profanities and racial slurs. On the wall there were pictures of the man with family members, with children, so obviously he was definately not what his language now makes him appear to be. (I shudder to think what might come out of my mouth were I in his same condition).

Anyway, as we were walking out to the car, I asked my friend if he liked his room mate. "Yes" he replied. He told me his name and said he liked him although "he doesn't talk much to me." I was surprised at his response.

But then I thought of other people with developmental disabilities I have known. I know a guy, good looking, athletic, muscular build who also has mental retardation who would always introduce me to his latest girlfriend. I found it interesting that such a good looking guy would choose girlfriends who were very severly disabled. Sometimes not, but it was obvious that appearance had very little to do with how he chose his girlfriends. I doubt that he consciously had rejected the standard that secular society places on good looks, etc., however, he had. When I would ask him about a girlfriend, he would talk about how she worked hard at the workshop, or was very friendly, or had a nice smile.

It is this type of acceptance which originally amazed me about persons with mental retardation and drew me in to the point that I wanted to spend my life with them. They accepted me with a full acceptance independent of who I was. They loved me openly, without the kinds of walls that we put up between ourselves in relationships even between friends. Acceptance is a wonderful thing.

How can people who are so accepting of others be often so rejected by them? Hmmm. I see the image of God in the manner in which people with mental retardation love others for who they are, independent of the things which would typically cause people to be stand offish (appearance, social skills, hygiene, disability, etc.). They show acceptance and simply hope for acceptance back. Oftentimes, even if it is not reciprocated, they press on with love and acceptance. If you give them a chance you will find them a model for you as to how to accept others.


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