I traveled to Columbia last week with a friend for the Disability Advocacy Day. We knew that it could be an emotional day but we didn’t know it would start so soon. As we were walking in we were behind a group of special needs adults. The two in the picture above particularly stood out to us. They will most likely challenge me to be a better person for a long time to come.
The gentleman with the cane remained quiet throughout the walk but his perseverance was inspiring. Though it obviously took tremendous effort with streets to cross, slops to navigate, and steps to watch out for, he never complained and diligently plugged away. Of course he didn’t have to talk, his friend, the other gentleman in the picture, was on the job.
He watched and reported every hazard along the way. I’m at a loss on how to describe the love and compassion in his voice as he announced each slop, step, or the fear that his friend’s shoe was coming off. And as any good advocate would do, he bellowed out for the group to wait when he saw his friend was being left behind.
His voice keeps running through my mind. Even when he bellowed to the group to wait there was no animosity or even the slightest irritation at the group for having left his friend. The next time I would hear such a compassionate voice would be while being on the verge of tears after stopping by Governor Haley’s office.
When we stopped by her office, we heard that a mom was waiting to see the Governor. Governor Haley visited her town the week before, after a fire had destroyed a factory. While there the father had spoken with the Governor and mentioned that his wife would be in Columbia for Disability Advocacy Day. The Governor asked him to have his wife stop by her office to see her.
We were very excited that she wanted to hear about our children. Sadly though, word was sent out through a staff member that she was busy and that her entire day was booked. No time had been set aside for our children even on the annual Disability Advocacy Day when 600 people planned to visit Columbia. The next scene was like something out of a movie.
I guess the lioness rose up in the mamas and we united as if we were all lifelong friends. I don’t remember all that was said but it ended with, “What could be more important than the quality of life of THIS CHILD or this one?” Then Moms around the room began repeating one after another, “Or this one.” “Or this one.” “Or these two.”
As we walked away discouraged, I once again heard the voice of peace-making compassion. It was a different gentleman but the same indescribable voice. He confidently blocked my exit by reaching out to shake my hand. While holding my hand, he began sounding out the name on what he thought was my name tag, a “Support the Ways and Means Proposal” sticker. “Is your name S, S, Susan?” Un-phased by the phonetic impossibility that Anita was written on my sticker, he loudly voiced his desire for me to have a good day. Little did he know that he had single-handedly made that possible and, in an instant, moved me from tears of disappointment to tears of joy.
I started out this journaling time by asking God how I could best speak for special needs children. Though I had hoped to speak with our Governor during our trip, I think the trip was about my learning how to be a better voice. So with these wonderful voices of love and compassion as my example, I pray that I will be able to follow the advice of King Lemuel’s mother in Proverbs 31: 8 – 9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Our children are facing Medicaid cuts that could dramatically affect their quality of life, not just for the present but throughout their lifetime. If we are forced to choose between occupational, physical, or speech therapy we are, in essence, choosing whether our children will be able to feed themselves, have healthy posture, or be able to communicate their needs and desires. These are choices that no parent should have to make.
Other than God, our Governor wields the most power in approving or declining cuts to the Medicaid budget. I pray that our voices will effectively, with love and compassion, call Governor Haley to follow the advice of King Lemuel’s mother as well.