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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

"Not playing with a full deck"

When someone is referred to as "Not playing with a full deck" the implication is that they aren't all there, that there is something that is lacking. I find that with some of my friends with disabilities that they are not playing with a full deck. But not in the sense of lacking something like intellect, or physical abilities due to a disability, but they are not playing with a full social deck of cards. Because of their sometimes devalued status, they lack the social capital to get what they want or need. They therefore play the cards that are often buried in most of our social decks. Because of their sometimes hurting condition (socially and otherwise) cards of strength are not played. Rather cards intended to cause guilt, cards that reflect anger, cards that reveal their lonliness or their expectations. It is easy to have those cards played on you and respond, "What did I do to make you angry?" or "It is not my fault that you are lonely" or "I cannot meet your expectations because I work, have a family, have other responsibilities." It is easy to meet these accusing cards with rejection, particularly if you (like me) are pretty much unaffected by those who attempt to foster guilt in you.

I remember when I taught students with serious emotional problems. They would threaten me and swear at me, and try very hard to get me upset. At times they were successful. But I grew to understand that those attacks were their disability speaking. So, just as I wouldn't condemn a person with an intellectual disability who couldn't do math, I can't condemn a person with an emotional disability who can't do social interactions. It is their disability speaking. In the process, if I am able to keep my composure, they learn acceptance and love and I learn patience and how to love people who are difficult to love. I will tell you honestly, however, that I prefer not to learn those lessons. I prefer to be appreciated and told that I am wonderful. Not to be told that I am uncaring and unresponsive. The issue is not whether my disabled friend is telling the truth about me (particularly when I don't think he is), the issue is what will I do with a person who is not playing with a whole social deck and is left to playing cards that will contribute to his exclusion and ostracism; a fact that he is oblivious to.

On occasion, some of these friends will find an encouragement card, or a gratefulness card and I delight when these are played both for the way that they make me feel, and that my disabled friend who played the card was, in that moment, of such a positive mindset that they were able to find that buried card somewhere, pull it out and play it.

The bottom line of this is that loving other people is hard, particularly hurting people. The relationship does not feel like it is 50-50 in effort or kindness or forgiveness. But once again it relates to who I compare myself to. I as a socially competent, successful person with a jovial personality from a Christian home look pretty good when I compare myself with a lonely, dependent person from an abusive home, experiencing the social consequences of disability and living on social security. I come off quite good in such a comparison. But I am playing with a stacked deck compared to many of my friends. I have more aces than the average person, and they may not even have a face card. Once I realize that, the rules of the game change...for me. To whom much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48). This verse applies to all areas of life including social interactions and I need to pause, and not respond in kind but in kindness.



Anonymous said...

As a teacher of only eight years i come to realize that many students that come my way arent dealing with a whole deck of cards but I becasue their parents did not offer them a full deck of cards. I as I am sure many other teachers would agree that students are what their parents create and its hard sometimes to come to peace with the fact that not all people in this world are blessed with a full deck. I feel I was blessed becasue I have always been able to communicate and be friends with some students who do not hold many aces. sometimes its just takes the right person to make such a little difference. On my campus many of the challenged students are put into my class for PE and their main teacher always comes and ask me how I do it, becasue they have them all day and they cant seem to reach them! It makes me feel so good that these students can't wait to come to my class everyday. I rarely have any proplems and now if the teacher has some issues with the students in class she will send a couple of them to me so I can talk to them and then they seem to relax. I think more people need to take some time becasue everyone can earn some more cards!

tljackson said...

I find that this title is very interesting because I don’t think I’ve ever related this to disabled people. I have generally used this in reference to what most would call “normal” individuals. If a particular person doesn’t complete something and they have all of the directions and tools to figure it out, we say they are not playing with a full deck of cards. The cards, from my viewpoint represent someone who is not using the full capacity of their knowledge. For this reason, I don’t really equate this statement with disabled people. They may in fact be using the full capacity of their knowledge yet to the outside world looking in, we feel like they can try harder, or maybe they are just content with where they are.

It’s very interesting because in your blog you say that it is not the person speaking, it is the disability. This is true yet it makes me laugh in a sense because sometimes they are not “speaking at all. They are at times antisocial and internalize other issues that may be going on in their lives. Sometimes these people are highly intelligent yet they don’t know how to express themselves. When they do express themselves it comes off as aggression or frustration.

I think it takes a very loving individual in order to understand those who have emotional problems. You have to have the gift of patience. Because you can’t always be sure of the reaction you may get from a person who struggles with this disability, you have to understand enough to know that if they have an “episode” you can handle it in a mature manner without harming yourself or the individual. Respond in love.

I truly agree with Luke 12:48. I think that whatever gifts, intellectual or physical, we are given; we need to be accountable for. Accountability begins first with ourselves and then extends outward. We need to all embrace the fact that we are the keepers of our brothers.

Unknown said...

DiChrista EDU 341 San Bernardino campus.

This is all to familiar when dealing with anything that is foreign to us. People including myself get very dismissive with people when we are not familiar or just choose to turn a blind eye a closed ear or a heart with a hole in it, and that is with dealing with "normal" people who supposedly are playing with a full deck. It is just like dealing with your on child who may get out in public and make you and everyone else think that they have absolutely no "home training." Do we become dismissive with them when we know how we have taught them. It is a constant reminder that all households are not ran the same and discipline is not given out in the same way does that mean how someone does something is wrong? The answer is no. This is a prime example of how people should reach out and try to find out what ails people. It seems that us "normal" people who don't have social problems or mental disabilities to spinning our wheels getting nowhere, when we all could take the time to spin our wheels on something meaningful and lives up to the service that we should be providing as commissioned by Jesus! We all should open up our ears,eyes, and heart.