Thursday, June 27, 2013

Learning to be Friends to the Disabled

A priest recently assigned to head a center for the disabled writes about an incident that brought sadness to the inhabitants of the center, and vividly shows the difficulties the disabled have to face in society.

A middle school child whose disability was not serious came to the center to attend one of the programs. After the introductions were over, he said he wanted to go to the toilet. When he did not return to the class, the priest sent someone to find out what happened and  was told they found the boy in the flower bed in the back of the building. The priest called for an ambulance and the boy was taken to a hospital. There was no danger to life, but he would have  a long period of treatment and convalescence.

The priest asked him why he threw himself out of the small window of the fourth-floor toilet, and was told he no longer wanted to live. The priest on the way to the hospital was filled with a thousand different feelings. Why would the young man want to kill himself? He felt miserable.

The boy had a problem with tics, which made it difficult to control certain bodily movements, provoking misunderstanding and causing his classmates to shun him, and some of the rougher students to beat him. The world  he had to face was filled with exclusion and avoidance, alienation and loneliness. These experiences left the boy with distrust of others and fear of the world.

In the introduction on that day of the accident, the boy expressed his despair by the way he introduced himself, which the priest found deeply moving. To live in such circumstances, the priest knew, would be difficult for anyone to accept.

Even though the center is separated by a large road from residential apartment buildings, there was opposition to building a center for the disabled. The main reason was  the belief that such a center would change the atmosphere of the neighborhood, and property values would decline. This is the way society looks upon those they consider losers in life, the weak who can't compete successfully with others.

Adults are the mirror for the young. When adults have little sympathy for the weak and the disabled, the children will very likely have the same feelings. Rather than embracing the weak, the delicate, the disabled among us, and helping to defend them; we are more likely to find that living with them is uncomfortable, and sometimes give vent to our feelings by using violence against them.

The priest mentions that he found it difficult, at first, to accept the assignment to the center, acknowledging feelings of resentment for having to accept such an assignment. However, living among the disabled, he was able, little by little, to appreciate the depth of the sadness they have to live with daily. His heart has been changed, he says, to one full of gratitude, and he asks for prayers that he may continue to be a good friend to them.

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