by Mary Mazzoni on October 29, 2011

“The only disability is having no relationships.”           – Judith Snow

Our culture celebrates the myth of the rugged individualist, pulling himself up by his own bootstraps. We work hard to prove our worth and earn our keep.

But, in the quiet of our hearts, we realize that we are neither self made nor self sufficient.

A time comes for each of us when we must accept the reality of our limitations and our need for others.

We may find in this acceptance an abundance of gifts we never expected.

Accepting invitations

Our children offer us many invitations.

Among them:

  • to accept our own limitations
  • to become vulnerable
  • to slow down, listen, see, be present
  • to appreciate and enjoy
  • to laugh and to cry
  • to seek and receive help
  • to learn how to forgive
  • to recognize that our worth and the worth of others lies not merely in what we do, but who we are
  • to learn to love in a whole new way

Often, in the busyness of life, we don’t notice these invitations. But sometimes we do. Sometimes we say yes. And the love and joy we experience can’t be measured.

Recognizing and receiving gifts

Judith Snow has profoundly influenced people, communities and systems all over the world. Tragically, she was also once forced to spend four years in an institution because there were no community based supports for her physical needs. Until she became part of a circle of friends. An interdependent group of people with and without disabilities. Who changed each other’s lives.

Judith wrote a blog post that lists the “gifts and assets that people who are vulnerable to rejection commonly bring to community”.

Read her “Gift List” here.

Every person is unique. Including the many people in our communities who are vulnerable to rejection. Not everyone responds to vulnerability in the same way. Yet Judith points us to the potential gifts that are borne of vulnerability.

Do you value these gifts? Do you think other people may value them as well?

Contributing and belonging

An organization called PLAN, based in Canada, supports people with and without disabilities to form interdependent personal networks. A core value of PLAN is that every person has a contribution to make. Learn more about PLAN’s concept of contributions of doing and contributions of being, here.

Al Etmanski, co-founder of PLAN speaks about belonging in a YouTube video here.

Etmanski says “our minds need to be accompanied by the soul, the heart, and the spirit.”  That mutual relationships among people with and without disabilities can “open us up, revealing our kindness and slowing us down.”

Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche explores this truth deeply in his best selling book Becoming Human,

Take some time

Future posts will look at resources to support mutual relationships among people with and without disabilities. Until then, let’s take time to simply consider the potential gifts of vulnerability. And the contributions of being as well as doing.

Check out the stories at a wonderful website called Philia here.

American Public Media’s Krista Tippett with Jean Vanier in an interview entitled “The Wisdom of Tenderness” can be accessed here.

May we experience the truth of Fred Roger’s words:

“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.”

What do you think?

The idea of finding gifts in vulnerability is rather counter-cultural. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please use the comment section below.

Photo credit: SabrinaC.Photography at Flickr

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jimnp72 November 3, 2011 at 5:41 pm

fascinating article and in depth treatment of what it takes to form and retain successful relatrionships


Mary Mazzoni December 3, 2011 at 10:11 am

Thanks, Jim! Your encouragement means a lot to me!


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