Since I have physical challenges and I require assistance with personal care, as well as tasks of daily living it has taken a long time and a lot of convincing for me to recognize that I am in fact a very independent person. I suppose this is reflected in that I coordinate my own attendant care schedule, manage my own house, travel to and from work on my own and work independently for the most part. Usually, I also do banking and grocery shopping and other tasks with the support of people who happen to be in the same place at the same time. However, in order for me to be as independent as I am, my environment needs to be set up in a precise configuration with various personal affects within reach including, but not limited to, my water bottle, food, phone, keys, laptop, headset, and remote for my electronics.

At church I am usually able to follow a large print copy of the liturgy and after the service I typically enjoy coffee and conversation with family and close friends. I am able to hold the coffee cup and drink it independently provided that the person preparing it uses a particular mug, fills it to a particular level (with milk and sugar), and passes it to me so I am able to use my hands as well as my torso to balance it and usually prevent it from spilling.

coffee mug

The details that allow me to be more independent are not usually intuitive so I am happy to explain them to anyone who works with me or just wants to help in some way.  However, it can take considerable time and effort to help someone understand how to enable me to be independent in certain situations. It is rare and special if someone is able to anticipate what I need without me giving them a lot of direction. Not only is this more efficient but it helps me to feel like I am not so much of an anomaly.

I was inspired by a bright 13-year-old from my church who seemed to know how to pass me my hot tea with no explanation whatsoever. I commented on her brilliant intuition as I was surprised at her ability to do this so well for me. I then asked her how she knew what to do and I was more amazed by her response. She said simply, “it was no big deal because I’ve seen other people do it a lot.”

This young girl’s response not only shows that most people have the capacity to understand how to provide effective support to another person simply by observing and interacting with them thereby demystifying some of the potential challenges to supporting people with disabilities. The principle of watching and learning is also valuable when it comes to matters of faith.

Life as a Christian does not require that we are lectured and tested on the Bible. We are called to notice what Jesus does and learn from Him. This may be the key to emulating His life as precisely as possible.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 5:1, ESV)

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

About Chantal Huinink

Chantal lives in Kitchener, Ontario, and has served with Christian Horizons for more than four years in various capacities. She is an experienced motivational speaker, social justice and accessibility advocate. Chantal has her Masters of Divinity and Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier Universityhas and a BA in psychology and human development from the University of Guelph.

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