October 13, 2011

Being Physically Challenged

For the first time in my life I am beginning to really understand what it feels like to be a ‘Handicapped’ person. There are probably many books and videos on the topic, and I imagine that personal care givers take courses on it. But as for me, I am officially enrolled in the Co-op program. On the dashboard of our vehicle we now have a card with a blue Handicapped Parking permit. I am now legally allowed to park in these extra wide spots nice and close to the entranceway. The last time we were shopping at Walmart, I saw a parking officer issuing a ticket to someone without a permit. For the first time I felt ‘vindicated’ instead of sorry for the hurried shopper. At our church and school, I noticed that the power push buttons to operate the door were not functional, and it bothered me for the first time. They may have been broken for some time, but I never noticed it before because it wasn’t important to me. Kids sometimes play with these buttons when their parents aren’t watching.

I need help showering and getting dressed in the morning because of the loss of fine motor movement in my hands. I cannot do belt buckles, buttons, or zippers anymore, so I am dependent on my wife to do that for me. Combing my hair, scratching the back of my head, cleaning my glasses is now a luxury of the past. I have noticed that handicapped people sometimes have hairs and dandruff on their shoulders, and food stains on their clothing. To my dismay, I see that I have it too at times, because I am not able to brush it off with my clawed hand. Sometimes I put my arm over the stain to cover it up. The other day someone shook my hand in a friendly greeting while I was holding a cup of coffee in the other hand. He shook it so hard that the coffee spilled all over my clean white shirt, tie, and dress pants. I felt like all that I had left of my dignity was my neat appearance, and now that was gone too! It was an honest mistake, but this was the first time I felt anger, not at God not at that man who shook my hand, but just grrrrr! It all boils down to pride, something I need to learn to let go of.

Another thing I notice is that some people bend over and talk louder to you than they did before, using a patronizing tone. Just because you cannot walk anymore, does not mean you are now hard of hearing or now have difficulty understanding. Having a separate handicapped accessible bathroom in a public building sure is nice if you need assistance. A handicapped stall in the men’s room doesn’t cut it when your wife needs to help you! I refuse to use the handicapped stall in the women’s bathroom, so I just grit my teeth and bear it until I get home. (Just a little hint for those who are building new churches.) I don’t mean to sound like a whiner, but maybe when you read these things it may make you realize, what a privilege it is to be independent and to be able to do things yourself. It is important for a handicapped person to be treated with dignity, respect, and to make provisions for them to have maximum independence. I hope it helps you to work with the handicapped in your community.


  1. Wow this one really moved me, especially with "I surrender all" on the playlist. Uncle Jack, you give a new meaning to that phrase and your faith through all of the surrendering is so encouraging.
    Love you both,
    Lydia VM

  2. Thanks for a great reminder! Wishing you the Lord's blessings, nearness and LOVE as you walk through this difficult journey. You are a blessing to so many, and your witness has been truly amazing. Thank you.

  3. People talking "down" to him Chris also found very difficult.
    Accessibility is a big problem in many places, even hospitals. I think I was sometimes more frustrated than Chris when he could not go somewhere or use a bathroom.
    Is someone doing passive exercises with you for your hands and arms and legs? That is very important.
    Reading your blog sometimes makes me cry but I am also blessed by your witness of the Lord's faithfulness and goodness. Praying for you.
    Mary VanD.

  4. although i am not handicapped, i have lived with a brother who is for many, many years. i appreciate this post...it made me laugh and cry and nod in agreement. i have felt such anger and frustration on my brother's behalf. May God grant you strength to endure these hard changes...He knows what He's doing!