I spend much of my day asking for help. Coming home from the train station yesterday I was cold and so stopped to ask a young lady to get my beanie and mittens out from my bag. She looked at me strangely and said, “can’t you get someone else?” when I noted that she was nearest she again refused to help. it is a response that I get surprisingly often. initially it embarrasses me (I must look like a creepy pervert) and then it infuriates me. I suggested that she think of her failure to help me every time she watched the news of the Paralympics, and then made my way to ask someone else.
With this in mind it was interesting to come across the following quote in a book by Amos Yong, Theology and down Syndrome: Reimagining Disability in Late Modernity:
- Sharon betcher notes (2000: 93), when she says as a person with a disability “excuse me, i need your help”—“in that moment the frozen wall between us topples; in your converted countenance, i discern that, as if in the twinkling of an eye, you have been changed. For the 45 seconds i needed you, you did not feel extraneous to the world. Sometimes i will ask for help just to save you, the nondisabled, from superficiality and irrelevance—just to save us from your own worst fear.” in that moment, god’s saving grace is made available through “the stranger” or those on the margins, and we can receive this grace or not depending on how we respond. This is the criterion dividing the sheep and the goats at the judgment: “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (matt 25:40). Hence, the question concerns not the dependence of the disabled on the nondisabled but the other way around: the nondisabled are dependent on the disabled, whom god has chosen to be a means of saving grace. (page 188)
This is such a profound paragraph. And it has me wondering, what does that mean for the people who so often say “no” to the ‘creepy’ me when I ask for help? or much more importantly, what does it mean for all those brilliant people who help me time and again.
This task I set myself of writing a diary of only one day is proving harder than I thought – and I’m sorry if I am overloading your inbox. Should have picked a slower day, so you ought to feel free to hit the delete button. Fortunately for me today has been a little easier and I have had a couple of chances to catch some zzz’s. I did have to travel in the afternoon to the physio at Prince of Wales. Had coffee with a former inmate of the hospital, Paul, and we shared things that only make sense to fellow SCIs. Nothing much else to report, except a very perceptive young man on a bus who noticed me overheating and offered to take off my jumper. Sometimes it’s nice not to have to ask. But I am supposed to be talking about yesterday.
1 PM, I arrive at Hillsong church and try to find some shade to eat my lunch. Rachelle, my carer – have I described her? 22-year-old trainee nurse. Superefficient and supercool. She is capable, clever and pretty but doesn’t believe it. And if any of you are worried that my personal care is being done by a beautiful young woman she is also a proud lesbian, and I am already married to a beautiful woman. Rachelle has this bizarre habit of saying sorry all the time. It’s become something of a running joke and it gives us a good laugh – where was I? Rachelle has packed me a peanut butter sandwich but it is stale and scaly and while I may be trying to economise I am not poor enough to persevere. I head off to the shopping centre and buy a sushi roll. I am super careful about what I eat. I get absolutely no exercise sitting in this chair all day, aside from forced gym time that is not as regular as my physio would like (don’t tell her). My life expectancy is already potentially compromised without giving myself cardiac problems and it’s probably not a good idea to force my carers to lug any more weight. So I eat like a pigeon. No mean feat when your wife is as good a cook as mine.
By the time I get back to Hillsong it is about 1:20 PM. That gives me 40 min before class and time for another brief kip. I am expecting someone to come and help me set up my computer at about 1:45 and students to arrive not much later. The class is to be held in what is known as “the basement”. Hillsong Auditorium is a multipurpose facility and most of the teaching rooms are made up of soundproof screens that enclose the tiered section of the auditorium. For obvious reasons that does not work for me so the basement it is. At 2 PM no one has arrived and I suspect something is amiss. I make a call and it turns out the students had not been informed I was teaching. I trundle over to the lift ,head up to the top floor, poke my nose into the alternate classroom and discover my students. We all shuffle on back downstairs and the class gets started only a few minutes late.
In case you are not aware I teach theology and this is a three hour class. Before you groan too loudly, don’t worry I won’t bore you with a blow by blow account. This is a first year theology class and this week has some elements of interest. The lecture was creation, providence and the problem of pain and if this topic is not familiar to you, it is one of the central challenges of faith. While the wonder of creation and the graciousness of God is one of the reasons motivating belief, the corollary – the bloody horror that sometimes frames human life – is sometimes the basis for atheism or agnosticism. For obvious reasons this is a topic about which I have something to say. Aside from the fact that I was writing on the issue prior to the accident, I have also spent seven months in hospital wrestling various Christian responses. I also had the pleasure of weekly visits from my friend Prof Neil Ormerod (Australian Catholic University) and we spent considerable time mulling over the topic. So what is the answer to the problem of pain? You have to be kidding don’t you. This is a blog and not a systematic theology. But for those of you familiar with the issues I will say this. John Calvin is way off base! Hah, I had to get that in there for my reformed friends.
Whether, after three hours, I made any sense at all you’ll have to ask my students. I am bloody exhausted. It’s a little after five and to get home I attach a bus from Baulkham Hills to Parramatta, a train to Granville and another train Ingleburn. I sleep most of the way but one interesting titbit. I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I face the back of the bus. On the back seat, presumably assuming that everyone was looking the other way, a couple were going at it. I swear they had their tongues down each other’s throats and their hands all over each other. This went on for about 10 min until they got off the bus. So here is yet another compensation of life in the chair! I arrive at Ingleburn at about 715 and Jeremy picks me up with new licence in hand. Home sweet home.