Share. Connect. Love.

Posted 2016-11-12T19:54:45Z

The Feels

I want to be known for one thing, and one thing only: my love for Jesus.

My Jesus has blessed me with the opportunity to live overseas and teach third culture kids and interact with a diverse group of people as I teach theology. In this complicated world, I’ve learned and grown and made many mistakes along the way, and some weeks come with more frustrations or celebrations than others. This week in particular had a wide range of emotions.

I experienced some pretty incredible physical successes, I had my character called into question, I had to defend my theological beliefs to strangers who wanted me to doubt my understanding of the Word of God, I felt spiritual oppression, I taught teenage guys to chop tomatoes, I enjoyed rich discussion about intercultural understanding of the Christian experience, I laughed harder than I can remember in recent months as teenage girls discussed flirting strategies - all in the span of seven days.

This is a blog where people come to read particularly about my physical recovery and how that’s directly impacting my emotions, so I’ll try to keep on topic. Also, I swore an oath never to share the details of the flirting strategies and other topics shared in my home by my students. I wrestled a lot with what to share here this weekend though because so much of my experience and emotions are linked to my disability.

I’m vulnerable.

Anyone posting on the internet makes themselves vulnerable, but I’m additionally vulnerable due to my spinal cord injury. I need a lot of help with many basic things - walking, traveling, occasionally opening doors. Here I am posting on the internet about my vulnerability, and I’m praying you will be kind to me. I have to pray people will be kind to me all the time everyday. Now, anyone reading this is likely one of those kind people. I’ve met hundreds, if not thousands, of kind people who have generously offered to open doors and do so much more for me.

There are also unkind people, though. There are people who openly stare with derisive scowls, there are people who mutter under their breath. There was even once in my experience when a woman referred to me as an “it.” You may not see this in your life, but I beg of you to understand, this is my reality. It’s not new despite being generally culturally frowned upon to be offensive. Please keep that in mind as I detour with an analogy.

As a teacher, I’m responsible for modeling good behavior in the classroom. If someone doesn’t get the content, I have the responsibility to help them understand the concept without embarrassing them. I lead the way with respectful behavior. Were I to openly mock a struggling student, it would change the culture of the classroom and set precedent for other students to be hurtful or disrespectful. This is a micro-culture.

As a disabled woman, I see the leader of America set a precedent for my fellow countrymen in how they view minorities - myself included. A lack of consequence for a president elect openly mocking disability sends a precedent that others can look down on me without consequence. Now, just as not every student would follow suit after a rude teacher, I know not every American hates disabled people. However, there are plenty who do. Disability is different. It makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and often times people act rudely or even violently against what creates discomfort for them.

This is a complex issue, so I hope you’ll bear with me as I continue with this rough transition. Many people I love and respect voted for Donald Trump. I still love and respect them. The same goes for those who I know who voted for Hillary Clinton, Evan McMullin, Gary Johnson, other candidates, or even the conscientious objectors who refrained from voting this election. There are a myriad of reasons to vote for any candidate, and I’ve never been a one issue voter. It would be irresponsible and unethical for me to demand all my friends vote based on what best benefits my personal disability.

What I do feel comfortable asking is that in your personal interactions with people who are different - with minorities of all kinds - is that you protect their basic human dignity. Please stand up to hate and intolerance when you see it. Please seek out ways to show inclusion to others who are vulnerable.

Please be like Cindy who on Tuesday held my right hand while I walked with my braces and no sticks. After a few short laps in the front of the auditorium, she celebrated with me in this momentous new achievement. We celebrated again on Wednesday when we tried something similar with just a single stick and her nearby, and she told me this week was the best walking she’s ever seen me do.

Please be like my family group who consistently refuses to let me be left out and this week made sure I had a ride to the location a distance longer than I could wheel. They also patiently held doors opened and moved furniture around for me to have the least amount of stairs to take while also offering hands and shoulders whenever necessary to make me feel safe and included as they dished up food for me and we shared life together.

Please be like my friend Alyson who took time out of her Saturday to walk with me and use her training as a PT to keep me safe while I held her hand instead of using my right stick. Please be like Margot, my German PT, who with me brainstormed new ways to develop my limited function based on this week’s successes. Please be like my coworkers and students who helped me through the inaccessible main building of our school by positioning themselves near me on the stairs and carrying my wheelchair up or down so I could attend the independent living tea parties in the student center.

Please be like my PT Anja who has similar concerns about a culture where people normalize hate and told me I was welcome in Germany as a disabled person. She is my advocate as she normalizes kindness and love. She literally held me up in the moments I couldn’t hold myself in physio yesterday, but her words continue to hold me up in an increasingly scary world.

A brief word to my brothers in sisters in Christ ready to chastise me to fear not in a world where God is the ultimate ruler: your blanket statements about God being on the throne not man mean nothing if you refuse to act on the commands of King Jesus to stand up for the oppressed. I’m a child of God, and I’m aware that God reigns supreme, and I take great joy in the ultimate victory of Jesus. I’ve read the end of the story - spoiler alert - Jesus wins. Jesus never says that his kingship would mean that we don’t experience harm. Knowing God is bigger than hateful people doesn't make me safer when hate is normalized. My fear of discrimination is valid, and that’s why I’m begging you all to step up and live like Jesus as modeled by my friends described above so that I stay safe and can continue to live a life that reflects the love of Jesus. Please continue to be a voice for the marginalized instead of minimizing their concerns. I'm vulnerable, and I need able bodied people to speak up for me.

There are many tangible ways that you can be an ally, and if you would like to identify yourself in your community, I would encourage you to wear a safety pin on your clothes if you want minorities to recognize you as a safe person.

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Comments (7)

  • Patricia Rogers
    Patricia Rogers

    You go, my granddaughter. You will soon be receiving a picture of Kandern women and your granny taken here in Sacramento last night. You are not disabled in my eyes and other's eyes. You are so amazing. Frederika, last night said she heard about you working with refugees and thought you were great for doing that.

    7 years ago · Reply
  • David Hewett
    David Hewett

    Love that kid

    7 years ago · Reply
  • Gloria Crawford
    Gloria Crawford

    Yes, Laura, we all need to be known first and foremost for our love of Jesus. Sadly, the American church has fallen short during this last election period..... This week, I got to spend time with a friend that went blind a couple of years ago, and I realize that I need to learn a lot. ( Like explaining to my friend that I am giving him a good-bye hug! ) Thankfully, he and his wife have a lot of patience and are good at explaining things. May you continue to be one who God uses to increase understanding for those who are disabled.

    7 years ago · Reply
  • Corrine Rogers
    Corrine Rogers

    Oh, Laura. So well said. You are truly a blessing to others. Love you and how you negotiate our world.

    7 years ago · Reply
  • Marjorie Cochran
    Marjorie Cochran

    Beautifully said, Laura. Thank you for sharing so honestly, directly and lovingly. As your Grandma said that she doesn't see you as disabled, and though I know that you're in a wheel chair and need help in your daily living, the world "disabled" has never come into my thoughts of you. You are one of the strongest - in every way - people that I know. We, as Christians, have a lot to do in the world around us with the newly perceived acceptance that fear, hateful behavior and language, derision and bigotry are ok. I know that the Christians I know, love and respect and who voted for Trump are also kind and loving people who would never support hateful behavior toward others. But we're already seeing and hearing about those who have had translated the election results as our society's approval of such behavior and are expressing that outwardly. And we know little of the fears that many have. (See Chris' post about my darling and beloved Grandaughter's fears that she and her family will have to leave the United States or be sent back to Africa, where she was born. It truly breaks my heart.) We, the entire Christian community of the United States, have a huge responsibility to demonstrate the love of Christ though actions and voice - the love, acceptance, support and encouragement to everyone who might now feel less secure or safe in our country.

    7 years ago · Reply
  • Stephensfam

    Love you- you courageous, beautiful, strong woman of God.

    7 years ago · Reply
  • Julia Olson
    Julia Olson

    Good grief, Ms Hewett, I could here your voice in all of this. It takes so much to open up like that. I seriously admire that... Also, AHHHH SHEEP.

    7 years ago · Reply