…what’s new with you?

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.”

Ecclesiastes 1:9-10, New International Version, 1973, 1978, Zondervan Corporation.

Everyone has their own idea of what is exciting. Does your heart sometimes cry out for a new adventure? Something new and exciting to get your blood pumping and heart racing?

For some it’s physical adventures like ziplining, bungee jumping, wrestling an alligator or cliff diving. For others its more cerebral, like a visit to a new museum, reading a new book from a much loved author or a brand new one or even debating upon a subject you’re passionate about.

Of course there’s other categories of adventuring too. But, if we apply King Samuel’s point-of-view to life period we may get a new perspective ourselves. King Samuel was King David’s son, they were both the King of Israel in their time. Samuel determined that he would seek from God wisdom. God granted him that request. By asking for wisdom King Samuel wasn’t asking for earthly riches or fame. But to be able to govern and lead the Children of Israel in the ways of God.

King Samuel wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes, located in the Old Testament. It has long been a favorite book of mine and contains my favorite passage, chapter 3 verses 1-15.

I was reminded today that a lot of people are searching for something new under the sun. As we have the cancel culture movement, political upheaval, equality for all races, genders and sexual orientation along with the peaceful protests and not-so-peaceful riots everyone it seems is looking for something.

Will we find it? No. You can’t mix billions of people across the entire world and expect everyone to be happy. Why not?

Because, like it or not, life doesn’t work that way. The power shifts. Those that are bullied and strong-armed find a way to turn the power around. Those that bully become the bullied. We can’t all agree on a single issue. Because we are all imperfect. Because we’ll never all be perfect.

Is there racial inequality? Yes. Is there gender inequality? Yes. Is there discrimination because of sexual orientation, wealth, and even physical ability? Yes. Because we are all imperfect and when we gain something for “our side” or “our people” it’s never enough. Because there are bullies in our leadership that have always been bullies and will always be bullies.

For myself I have a few “aha moments” that shape my conception of this topic.

  • Being made to give up my front row desk in the first grade to the doctor’s daughter by my own mother who told me to go sit in the back row. She quickly explained who the girl was and no one dared not give her what she wanted. They had money. We did not. She deserved the seat of her choice and me? Obviously I deserved the last.
  • As a child, teen, young and older adult I have always experienced bullying and shaming over my weight.
  • In my career I would have human resource directors tell me they’d love to hire me but they had to hire a specific type person to show diversity. When I was in position to help with the decision to employ someone for our team I was told immediately what race of the person I should recommend had to be. Regardless of their skill set, experience and team behavior abilities I would have my choice overriden if I did not recommend a person of a specific race.
  • As a person in their 30’s suffering with a broken foot in St. Mary’s hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee a nurse, in front of a waiting room full of people and other staff mockingly brought me a child’s wheelchair to sit in since walking on the foot was so painful. Then the x-ray technician walked in, took one look at me and said, “I’m not x-raying that”! They had to find someone else to come in and do the x-ray.
  • Knowing my leg had developed an infection in it I was forced (it was on a Saturday) to seek medical care from one of those “doc in a box” places. First words out of the doctor’s mouth when he entered the room was, “Well, Mrs. V. I think the problem here is that you’ve gotten so heavy your body temperature gauge is broken.” He meant it as a joke. I didn’t find it funny. So I told him, “You know, I know that I’m not paying a bill for these services” and I wheeled out the door before he could close his mouth and try to get me to come back. (I didn’t pay the bill, my insurance was never charged either.)
  • As an amputee living life in the “real world” since that day of surgery on June 3, 2011 every single day has been a fight for equality. Regardless of what the American’s with Disabilities Act is intended to do it fails. All the specifications, measurements and well-intended rules are loopholes that companies, governments and people operate legally through every single day. Towns and cities get approval from the courts to delay making a building accessible or sidewalks with cut-outs to allow a wheelchair to be on the sidewalks. And the grandfathered in clause which some admit exists and some deny gets waved over the entire mess on a daily basis.

Yes, it’s impacted my employment, my ability to make equal money compared to the able-bodied people around me while I was doing more than those on equal status with me in the chart of organization. It impacts my ability to travel, attend ballgames, shop, or visit family and friends. People look away, or move away as if my disability is catching.

I’m made to feel “less than a person” and still am the object of ridicule and mockery. Take today for example, after struggling to get my manual wheelchair into the restaurant, as the door, though it meets specifications, is also only a bobby pin’s width from being the same size as my chair, the waitress asks me if I need a bib. Keep in mind there’s no food on my clothing or face mask. I’m neatly dressed, my hair is brushed, I’m not drooling or anything. I’m just in a wheelchair. But, I belong to a group of people that reportedly is less than 2% of America’s population. We don’t have enough voting power to make an impact. Government leadership from the local level to the national level can ignore us.

My experience is nothing new. It’s happened repeatedly through history. It will continue. All the change I can control is how I respond to it.

I choose non-violence. I could stage a protest that ends with a bunch of handicap people destroying public and private property wailing on it with their canes, walkers and chairs. We could spraypaint disgusting words on walls and blame the police for the situation, then beat on them with our durable medical equipment. We would get ourselves on the news as we attempt to destroy every statue that doesn’t have an equal that is someone with a disability. Or slash every art show where people are protrayed without missing limbs or with a cognitive disorder. Would we change minds?

No. No one would hear what we were saying over the noise of our actions.

But, and it’s a big BUT I, like all my other fellow “physically challenged” 2% of the American population, I choose to remember what King Samuel said:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, New International Version, 1973, 1978; Zondervan Corporation.

—-Donna

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