This I Believe

Liz - San Diego, California
Entered on October 8, 2007

This I Believe

“Whatever denies, diminishes, or distorts the full humanity of woman is, therefore, appraised as not redemptive. Theologically speaking, whatever diminishes or denies the full humanity of women must be presumed not to reflect the divine or an authentic relation to the divine, or to reflect the authentic nature of things, or to be the message or work of an authentic redeemer or a community of redemption.”

–Rosemary Radford Reuther (Sexism & God Talk, 18-19)

I believe in the potential power of the human being. I believe in equal opportunities for all. Through serving others, I believe in human dignity and justice.

I believe we must be careful with the limits, restrictions, and standards we set for others. With predetermined and unqualified expectations, we support a hostile environment where one’s ability to demonstrate their true being is limited.

I believe in serving others. After working and volunteering at a summer camp for people with physical and development disabilities, I gained a new, more informed perspective of the world through the eyes of humans whom the world unreasonably labels as outcasts because they are unique in different ways than the rest. Through helping others, we can better the surrounding world in addition to ourselves.

I believe in human dignity. I believe in no such thing called “normal”. Everyone is different; everyone is unique. There is not one person, one quality, one ability, or one anything that society can legitimately call “normal”. I believe differences in people, differences in qualities, differences in abilities, and differences in anything in society are “normal”. I believe the word “normal” signifies a negative connotation; for it erroneously labels one thing “right” and everything else “wrong”. Society’s standards of “being normal” constrain the capabilities of those placed outside of the general population; it generates preconceived notions, accepted beliefs, laws, and stereotypes which identify people with disabilities as inferior to those without. Once society eliminates a standard for “normal”, people will be able to perform closer to their potential. Established benchmarks hinder our ability to openly accept them; instead, society strips their dignity from them and labels them as “special” or by the disability they have.

I believe in accessibility. Through living and working with people with disabilities at camp, I gained a better understanding of their everyday needs. The summer camp is designed to accommodate people with disabilities, but the world outside is far from it. In restaurants alone, I discovered entrances missing ramps, undersized bathrooms forbidding wheelchairs to maneuver, menus needing sufficient options for customers with chewing and/or swallowing difficulties, and worst of all, staff and customers lacking any experience with people with disabilities. If society wants to support an environment in which people are able to equally participate and enjoy things, it must first establish a setting in which people physically and mentally can enter.

Inaccessibility, in my opinion, is a form of discrimination that has generated a modern oppressed population. It is generating a construct which physically denies access to member of society. The result is a physical, mental, and emotional limit on their role. A camper solidified this dilemma when he told me he felt his sole purpose in life is to “make the world accessible to people in wheelchairs”. To liberate this population from oppression, I believe we must eliminate the inaccessibility constructs in society; this will incorporate and assign proper roles for people with disabilities.

I believe in exposure. I’ve met numerous people who have grown up and lived their entire adult lives in their own little “bubble” without any contact to people with disabilities. Understanding their somewhat limiting role in who their neighbors, coworkers, family, and friends are, I think it is admirable and necessary to step outside of one’s comfort zone to establish a relationship with or simple consideration of people with disabilities. Lack of exposure leads to ignorance. Interacting with, caring for, and being in the presence with people with disabilities should be common knowledge and basic human instinct. not knowing how to interact, care for, or even be in the presence them. I believe it is a human’s duty to see the world through as many perspectives possible to gain a better appreciation for even the simplest things in life. When we step outside of our viewpoint, we not only gain a friend and useful skills, but we also acquire new ideas never apparent to us before.

I believe we all have something to learn. For those brave and unselfish enough to interact with people with disabilities more extensively, I believe they can teach us a great deal. Where we see a loss due to their disability, they identify a gain. Many of the people I worked with at camp have perfected, mastered, and excelled in utilizing the physical and mental capabilities they possess; for those they have lost or never had, they have improvised ways to make up for them. They know better than to take anything for granted; they appreciate everything in life and accept each day as a gift from God. I believe people with disabilities can teach us a simpler, more appreciative way of life. I believe we must incorporate disabilities into our relentless search for knowledge; for there is much to be discovered.

I believe in humor, bluntness, and knowledge. Rather than avoid dreaded conversations, topics, or ideas about disabilities, I believe we should actively approach them. It is helpful to discuss them with others, especially those who are directly affected by them. Humor, a human’s perception of something amusing or comical, allows us to discover answers and gain information in a fun, comfortable manner. It is through bluntly approaching situations, rather than avoiding them, that we obtain progress in our search for personal growth or gain. I believe humans, separated from other living things because of their ability to communicate, should take full advantage of open discussion and communication to explore all depths within the human world. I believe, through laughing, speaking honestly, and passionately searching for understanding, communication is a major starting point for the world.

I believe, as shown through serving others, in dignity and justice. I believe in the potential power of the human. To reach potential, I believe preconceived notions, accepted beliefs, law, and stereotypes need to be actualized or eliminated to allow an equal opportunity for people with disabilities to participate and contribute to society. Society is not only discriminating against people with disabilities, but it is also creating devastating social and cultural constructs that limit the role of these people in society. Elimination of discrimination, inaccessibility, would better society and each member by introducing a new, commonly ignored perspective. I believe the world possess a greater potential if everything and everyone “different” was acknowledged, accepted, cherished, and welcomed. I believe in equal human dignity.