Viable – Webster’s dictionary defines this word as the capability of living and developing normally; capable of working, as a plan; workable; practicable.
Well, when I stop to actually consider this word, viable, I have to ask myself, how many of my life goals have been intentional, purposed to fulfill the destiny Father God had planned for me, before I was formed in the womb? And have my plans become viable means in living out the reason I have been gifted life?
I spent many years in being a strong advocate when my second son was born, severely hearing impaired, also with a muscle weakness, later becoming totally Deaf at age 15.
I suddenly found myself in a world I knew very little about, but it was a world I wanted and needed to discover all I could in order to be the mom my son needed. So, I invested myself in reading, researching, and interacting with Deaf adults in my quest to understand my son’s needs and to do all I could as His mom, to bridge his world of silence with a world very much dependent on hearing/speaking in order to communicate.
One of my first goals when discovering how affected he was with his hearing loss, was to enroll in the nearest college level American Sign Language course, and I took all courses they offered, in order to teach myself a language to communicate with my son, but also to help teach him a means of expressing himself and who he was in the world, trying to give him a viable means of surviving, but also thriving in the world.
I grew, maturing as a person in investing myself in researching, being informed of issues, connecting in legislative efforts for services, and doing all I could as a woman affected in a personal way in finding myself at the other end of needing to be educated in learning how to be the best possible mother I could to my child who had to learn to live in a world based on hearing.
I was a sought after speaker on Deaf culture, understanding the needs of these children in family systems, educational, and community centers, relaying the psychological, emotional and spiritual impacts of how loss of hearing greatly affects children on every level of their being, incorporating my own philosophy of the worth, value and the need for sensitivity when interacting with Deaf children.
I became an Interpreter for Deaf children in educational settings, in church, in the community, and especially with and for my son in helping to connect him socially, and spiritually, with others who did not know or learn his language, including family members.
Although I discovered working with children was a meaningful endeavor, it was often having to deal with parents of special needs children, especially Deaf ones, my heart would break due to them not seeing the need to learn American Sign Language in opening up communication with their children.
This was indeed the most gut wrenching emotional effect I found myself dealing with in trying to assist and advocate for the special needs of Deaf Children as I could not fathom this failed understanding on the part of select parents, why they would not be willing to do all they could in being able to speak with their own child and to help them in the many challenges they would have to face in the world where speaking is key in expressing one’s needs, desires, goals, and resolving issues.
I spent many years in helping to advocate for this particular group of children in mainstream educational institutions, in residential schools, in churches, in civic groups and in my own community.
I found a growing desire within me, to move towards working with adults impacted by disabling or life altering conditions, as I found myself crossing paths with many of them who seemed to be in places where help was not available and where other persons failed to understand the depth of their struggles, in all the difficult life challenges persons differently abled had to endure, facing each and every day.
I wanted to make a difference in the lives of those persons impacted physically and/or mentally as mental health issues were also of great concern for me and my heart reached out to these persons, who were often invisible in our society as I saw a devaluing of who they were, in not being noticed or recognized as human beings living in our society.
As I prayed seeking the Lord, the desire within me burned with a holy fire, spurring me to search various counseling programs available at nearby universities, when I discovered one that peaked my interests, so I journeyed through the application process, was accepted on credentials of prior schooling and life experience without an interview.
I was the only graduate student who applied, not having to go through the 1 1/2 interview process by the heads of the department, The School of Education and Human Development, of the University of Syracuse, NY, a rather prestigious private higher educational institute, which I am only stating as this confirmed to me the direction was one God desired me to pursue.
Pursuing graduate school and completing my degree as a Rehabilitation Counselor was a plan I sought with an intentionality in being able to help persons affected by long-term disabling conditions, improve their coping capacity emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually in being able to deal with life altering challenges, still feeling valued as persons, in having a quality life filled with meaning.
Although I am no longer a Certified Professional Counselor, the training and experiential practice of incorporating methods to assist adults in adjusting to often, debilitating symptoms that are a result of a disease state and/or having had some accident greatly impacting one’s functioning capabilities, has aided me greatly in having an ability to meet persons right where they are at, with a compassionate understanding of all that lies underneath the façade of having to pretend that everything is ok with them to the outside world.
So many times I find myself addressing this issue, that persons feel that they have to live in a pretense, hiding their real feelings in their attempts to ignore the emotional consequence of the impact of now living with some disabling condition and this is usually a response they are receiving from others towards them, in how people fail to understand the depth and level life challenges affect persons both physically and emotional when they have been inflicted with some disease or long term chronic condition.
We cannot separate a persons emotional suffering from their physical struggles as we are connected intricately with both as God created us to be persons having the ability to fully express ourselves in the midst of our life journey.
How many times have you crossed paths with persons enduring some sort of physical condition; MS, Cerebral Palsy, Stroke, Arthritis, Chronic Pain, Spine Trauma, Degenerative Disc Disease, Autoimmune Disorders, cancer, or even parents raising differently-abled children with special needs,where you have noticed they have the appearance of coping on one level, but underneath they are dealing with a world of emotional consequences, they often do not speak about.
No matter what we experience in life, we must find a way to allow our emotional processing of any life altering challenge to surface in becoming aware of how we are being affected so we can improve the way we make choices in deciding how we are to live out the rest of our lives, so we can find a viable means to sustain a quality life, one filled with a continuing purpose and meaning.
Although this brief article cannot address in length, depth, or skill, all of the varying levels we live the consequences of our choices in the midst of having life come at us, I am desiring to simply raise these issues, as we need to be sensitively aware, when interacting with those in this world who are or have been affected in some way with some life altering condition and/or life challenge, in how we maintain a compassionate understanding, in our own awareness of their needs as persons and human beings, that they still having great worth, they still can contribute to society in fulfilling ways, and they remain viable persons living in our world.
There is not one person who has been inflicted with a life altering occurrence (s), that have not also been affected underneath the physical, on an emotional, psychological and spiritual level, in ways that have impacted who they are, how they function, and how they have to pick up the often, shattered threads of their lives, in continuing to move forward, as life does not stop, when any one or more of these issues come into a person’s world.
As I was influenced and impacted in ways through knowing my son, that improved my own ability to remain sensitive to persons’ differently abled. I find the challenge is to spread an awareness to others, that people in wheelchairs, persons compromised by mobility challenges, persons unable to hear, persons whose functioning has been impacted, are real persons; having real feelings, having real needs to feel like they belong somewhere in this world too, that they have a place in being accepted for who they are.
The point I would like to emphasize is we need to walk in a mindfulness towards others that when we find ourselves engaging persons differently abled, or parents of children having special needs, they too are human beings, who need a place of being accepted, who want to be appreciated, and who deserve the same respect and understanding we offer to others in our normal every day living out of our lives.
Our world is a better place when we realize all persons have value, no matter what life altering condition or disease they must learn to live with, it is we who need to reach outside ourselves and enter into their suffering with the humanity of Christ inside us, embracing everyone with compassionate love, offering them a place where they are valued in our hearts, inviting them into our homes and making a place in our hearts in extending a bit of Mercy towards them as real persons having real needs, so they too can have a viable means in which to be connected in a society that often fails to see those living with life long chronic conditions as having any worth at all.
I would conclude with the question I started out with, have my plans become viable means in living out the reason I have been gifted life?
I would have to say yes as the path I have taken in life to go beyond who I am and enter into the journey of other persons’ suffering has been a viable means in living out my life, and one that has made me realize the potential in all persons to be of value is in how I view and percieve them to be real life human beings, sharing in our humanity.
This journey I have walked and continue to walk, has changed who I was on the inside and brought me into a spiritual quest where I discovered the compassion that comes from God’s Heart has been infused into my heart, so I can be Him in this world in being present when I am with others, entering into their suffering with mindfulness and attentive care.
I also came to a place of recognizing my own role in actively partcipating in valuing everyone with the same sensitivity, understanding, and attentiveness, regardless of where they are in life, and that it takes intention on my part, in purposing to walk out my faith, being motivated in the love my Father God has filled me with, pouring it out in touching the hearts of all those souls in this world who need a touch from Him.
Lorraine Taylor – Lay Minister
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA.