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

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Choosing to be "smart"

I just finished reading the book Just Courage by Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission.  He makes the following comments (pp. 118-119).
The fact is, when people choose to be brave instead of smart, their courage is generally so threatening to those who are smart rather than brave that they end up being maligned, not congratulated.  This is what the Bible says we can expect... So sometimes we have to decide: Are we going to love, or are we going to look smart?  Because loving the needy doesn't look smart.  And, sadly, in much of our culture this is one of our deepest fears: looking like a fool, naive, unsophisticated, a little too earnest, a looser... Generally, there is no wealth and very little regard in helping the needy... Sometimes the will of God is scary because he is asking us to choose between a life that looks successful and a life that is actually significant, between a life that wins the applause of our peers and a life that actually transforms lives through love.
That is often the issue with ministry to people with disabilities, particularly people with intellectual disabilities, the ones that I believe God has called me to serve.  How is is smart to be in ministry to people with mental retardation?  But Haugen asks the real question that is behind a lot of the disinterest in devalued people.  He says, "Are we going to love, or are we going to look smart?"  Is it smart to minister to people who aren't going to "get better."  What will people think of me if many of my friends are mentally handicapped?  Will I be the victim of some form of sympathy stigma?  I do run that risk.  It is true that "Generally, there is no wealth and very little regard in helping the needy."  To quote A League of Their Own, "Its supposed to be hard!  If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it."

But there is the potential that a life will be transformed through love.  The change to bet on is the change in your own life.  The love learned is the love you learn.  But they are not always easy lessons, so be prepared to be maligned.  

It is also interesting how people will dismiss themselves from work with the needy, particularly those who are needy with intellectual disabilities.  It is funny to most special educators, because the typical line you hear when you tell someone that you are a special ed teacher is that they say, "I don't have the patience for that."  Not, "I would like to learn the patience for that because I hear patience is involved" or even, "I have heard that you need to be patient.  Is that true?"

Significance of a life can be defined in a variety of ways.  But I think most often significance is determined on the basis of what you did for others.  And others, is a pretty open ended criteria.  People respect a person who gave their life for the needy.  So why aren't we doing more of that if that is what is remembered.  People will sometimes lament the time others spent trying to make money, but rarely the time spent with people.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Deciding between choosing to be brave and love or look smart regarding interacting and ministering to persons with disabilities is one that I have experienced and observed many times in the business of retail and on the college campus as a student. So often, in the rushed impatient environment of retail, a person with a disability is often perceived as causing the line to move too slow or taking up too much time with the cashier. I can recall specific instances where I made a mental choice to ignore the rude stares of uninformed customers so that I could take the time to adapt my communication to the customer who was deaf. The extra patience in adjusting one's use of space and distance when communicating across the service desk with a person in a wheelchair or giving this same individual a little push up a campus hill on the sidewalk is invaluable. As a beginning student, I recall walking fast by these individuals so that I could arrive to class on time. Now, with my increased awareness, I take the time even at the risk of being a little late to offer a little push up the hill along with conversaton.

EDU 541