Monthly Archives: June 2010

An Encouraging Word

It would be nice if a cheerleader handed you a hot cup of coffee every morning as your feet hit the floor, and it would be even better if she cheered you on, “A great day! You can do it,” meaning whatever the it of the day is. Encouragement does a lot for us.

Encouragement is a thread running through my book The Reluctant Immigrant. Rika, the immigrant, found herself driving a team of oxen 200 miles to get her mother and sister to New Braunfels, Texas. Never in her wildest dreams did she consider she could do it. If ever anyone needed encouragement, she did. And several persons along the way saw potential in her and used it as encouragement. Frau Kellerman who had lost an arm but could cook and nurse told Rika, “You can do it! What is, is. What you must, you will!” And when Rika made a very difficult choice, Aunt Mathilde said, “A good choice . . . You are strong, and you will make it.”

We wish someone would say to us as they said to Rika, “You can do it. I know you can.” Or maybe we wish someone would just know that we are struggling or need an encouraging word. We need someone to notice, and maybe we can take on the pleasure of noticing the struggles of other people. Today you may have the opportunity to say to someone, “Good for you. Well done.” Or you might say, “You can do it. You have perseverance and talent or . . . ”

You may not think of yourself as an encourager, but you probably are. You can do it.

Wheelchairs and Floods

Someone should invent mud shoes for wheelchairs. Our cabin in the Hill Country of Texas was hit by a wall of water in a flash flood last week that left mud everywhere, driveway, ramps, steps, yard, inside the water pump. The pump is critical because you can’t use water to wash off the mud.  For a while, I and my wheelchair were parked, and all I could use was my mouth to call service people. Helping hands took up carpet, shoveled mud, etc., but it reminded me that everywhere across the United States are people in wheelchairs who get flooded or burned out or some other calamity, and often there is no one to help them.

Hurricane Katrina  evacuees in wheelchairs often found Red Cross Centers and other facilities ill equipped to handle them. Knowledge of the needs of these persons is often unclear, and they have no idea who is going to show up at their facility. Many churches and church camps came to the rescue, most of them having connections to persons who could provide access to battery chargers for electric wheelchairs (The battery is different from a car battery!), repair for manual wheel chairs and some for walking aids for persons with mobility problems.

During the flood of 2002 when I asked FEMA for a ramp, they allowed it wasn’t their jurisdiction, and they told me to contact the Office of Aging in Austin, Texas. That office had no idea what I was talking about. “Your ramp washed away? Talk to FEMA.” Disability issues fall through the crack of not belonging to everyone or anyone, so it’s important to advocate for ourselves and those we know. Meanwhile, help a person you know solve a ramp problem. In my case, my kids took  our bright blue, warped front door that had been ruined, and made it into a ramp. I loved that door and hated to give it up later.

Well informed churches and individuals can make a difference in times of crisis, especially if they have prepared in advance. For information about what your church can do to prepare internally for needs during a crisis, check out Emergency Planning for Special Needs on my site. The site gives you connections to national emergency help, and also tells you about an emergency Go Bag that you grab to take with you in case of an emergency. If you have disability and medication issues, this could save your life. If you are in a wheelchair, why not volunteer your expertise with the Red Cross or the disaster planning group in your community?

In my case, the mud got shoveled, and I am back on the precious ramps, can even get into the house. Life gets back to normal, and every day I am thankful for family and friends who help.

Learning disabilities and the new term

The new term “intellectual disabilities” is becoming widely used, but it is not widely understood. For example, does a person with a learning disability fall into this category, one that is strictly defined by government standards?

According to the National Institutes of Health, one in seven Americans has some type of learning disability. Yet those with learning disabilities seem to not fall into the category of intellectual disability unless their functioning level is below 70-75 and they have limitations in defined living functions. So does this term apply? I’ve searched, but find no reference. If you can interpret, please speak up.

I applaud the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation (appointed in 1966) for finding the new, less offensive term. The committee now has a new name: President’s Committee on Intellectual Disabilities, and they have removed some of the confusion about the category regarding mental illness. They are also heavily involved in upholding the rights of all people with intellectual disabilities in their efforts to be more independent and productive members of society.

Sitting next to you at a meeting of adults may be someone with dsgraphia or dyscalculia, only two of several processing functions that are considered learning disabilities. I was surprised to learn that technically ADHD often occurs with learning disabilities, but it is not the same.

I’m compiling a glossary of special needs terms for my web site. Man! It is not as easy as you might think.


Wednesday, May 26

Circle of Friends, our special group where everyone is a star, splashed into a big beautiful pool for the last social event before going on summer vacation. A few loafers sat in the hot tub. A few persons played cards, some threw balls, many just hung out to visit, some splashed water on bystanders. I was a target, so I carried a towel to dry my electric wheelchair. Robert stayed clear so his chair wouldn’t drown. Every one in and out of the water squirmed through the Macarena over and over. About sixty people created masterpiece hot dogs swimming in chili and onions and everything gooey. There were homemade brownies and ice cream with delicious trimmings, even cake. No one went away skinny.

Then it started to rain!

Not to fear getting wet, eh? We dripped over to our closing prayer circle under cover of the patio. The sacred flow was evident as everyone spoke love and said the “That’s Awesome” chorus of thanks for hosts. A left over towel and watch will eventually find the right home. A great Amen for a year of spectacular fun, learning, spiritual growth, new boy friends and girl friends, questions and more questions.

This group of adults and teens is very precious to our church, and they bring many gifts to us.

Circle of Friends Sunday School will meet all summer, but the Wednesday night programs begin again in September.

This cat is Weird (or, "This is my cat, Weird?")



Naomi Mitchum Naomi Mitchum