Sunday, July 25, 2010

You First
The worlds of special education and medicine are an alphabet soup of labels.
Most of us are familiar with ADD / ADHD.
You’ve likely heard of MS, and maybe CP.
How about ASD, ALS and PDD?
And we all hope we never get “the big C”!
Labels tell us what a person’s needs are, so we can meet those needs better.
When I taught a little boy who has autism, I talked to him differently than I talk to my youngest niece (aka The Princess), who has cerebral palsy.
My friend’s son, who’s being treated for leukemia, receives different medication than my oldest nephew (aka The Handsome One), who has diabetes.
But, like every good thing, labels pose a challenge.
The challenge is to use the label to describe the need... not to define the person.
I wince when I hear someone referred to as a “special needs child”.
     Or “autistic boy”.
          Or “Down syndrome man”.
               Or, in the school setting, “IPP kid”.
It’s a good thing I’ve never heard someone call my niece “the wheelchair girl”,
     but I bet she’s heard it.
My niece,
     my nephew,
          my friend’s son,
               the man who lives next door to you...
is a person first...
     a complete and valuable person...
          made in the image of God
             and loved by Him.
His life, her life,
     has been impacted by some kind of diagnosis,
        but he or she is not defined by it.
At least, I pray he or she isn't!
So let’s talk in a way that expresses our belief in every person’s value.
An easy way to do that is to choose person-first language.
     It’s not hard to figure out.
     We just put the person first.
We don’t say “special needs child”.
     We say “child... with special needs”.
Not Down syndrome man.
     Man...who has Down syndrome.
Not the disabled.
     People ... who have disabilities.
Not autistic boy.
     Boy ...who’s been diagnosed with autism.
Not wheelchair girl.
     Girl... who uses a wheelchair.
While we’re at it, person-first language applies to other realms, too.
Please, please... not “the poor”.
     People who are poor.
Not “the elderly”.
     People who are elderly.
Not “the homeless”.
     People who are homeless.
Maybe you think I’m making too much fuss about simple little words.
     After all, we know what we mean, right?
But the truth is, words matter.
Words influence thoughts,
     the thoughts of both the speaker and the hearer.
          Thoughts become attitudes,
               and attitudes become actions.
So let’s start the whole thing right.
Let’s use words that show we think of the person first.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I am in Ketchikan, Alaska, and I just toured her (in)famously-historic Creek Street, where her longest-standing brothels were in operation until the US federal government closed them down. There is much laughter and under-the-breath joking about these businesses now. But the fact that many women willingly provided the "service" of prostitution... because it made more money than, for instance, waiting tables... is only sad to me.
I consider this business as one that demeans both the "workers" and the men they "serve"; it also undermines the sanctity of marriage and the family. Nevertheless, the women who engage or engaged in prostitution, then and now, are precious in the sight of God. And with that in mind, I am careful to say they were women who engaged in prostitution,  rather than call them prostitutes. Do you wonder why I fuss over this detail? (I promise you -- it's not because I want to be politically correct.) And, even more, do you wonder how this has any bearing on the theme of this blog? Your questions are good and fair... and I will answer them in my next entry, as soon as I return home. :)
Now it's back to my cruise ship... talk to you in a few days!
-- Reenie

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hot and Holy
Bill Hybels’ book Holy Discontent came into my hands only recently, but ever since I heard the title a few years ago, it has resonated with me.
I admit that lots of world-size problems weigh on my heart. I’m moved to tears that children and adults are homeless in my very own city. It tears my heart to hear stories about men, women and children sold as slaves. I feel a great sadness to know that many people are tortured for being faithful to their religious beliefs. And I get a knot in my gut when I think that many children go to sleep hungry every night.
But, honestly, those things don’t “wreck me”, as Bill Hybels’ book says. Those issues don’t burn a hole in my heart, and, awful as they are, they don’t usually keep me awake at night.
But other things do wreck me.
I experience physical pain when I watch a pretty teenaged redhead being ignored by peers and adults at the church her family attends... because she uses a wheelchair. I have trouble sleeping after a mother tells me a Christian school refused to enrol her bright, talkative son...because he has autism. I get heated up inside when I meet a sweet little girl who loves Jesus, but is repeatedly sent away from her church’s children’s programs... because she has Down syndrome.
I get hot under the collar when a child with special needs is denied proper access to any community group, but I get especially hot-and-holy about it when that group claims to be part of the Body of Christ.
We all know Jesus said, “Whatever you’ve done to the least of these, you’ve done to Me.” We who say we love Jesus should be the first to welcome people with challenges. What wrecks me is that, usually, we’re the last.
That’s what Reenie’s Resources is about. Once a week or so, I’ll post an entry related to opening doors, especially doors to the Church, for people who face challenges. I hope you'll check in regularly and comment often! I’d be honoured and encouraged if you become a “follower”.
Before I go today, I have a question for you.
What is God stirring up in your heart? What in this world gives you a holy discontent?
Whether you’re hot-and-holy about world poverty or child abuse or unjust prison sentences or rampant crime or lonely elderly people or lack of access to medical care or...or...or...I encourage you to do what Holy Discontent suggests:
Feed it. Learn more about the problem and what you can do to fix it.
Fight for it. Be prepared to meet resistance and overcome obstacles.
Follow it. Do all in your power to right that wrong in this world.
Together, you and I can leave our children a world that’s better, safer and more hopeful than the one in which we started. We can... so let’s do it!
• Reenie