Note: Need I get too much credit for this title; it is lifted from an R.E.M album titled “Life’s Rich Pageant.” This was originally posted on October 5, 2012 and is reposted today for Blogging Against Disablism Day.
I think those who see a certain and hidden joy in life are more than a little misunderstood. I can think of Emerson who says such a thing is a measure of greatness, but it is true with or without his words.
I am fortunate to work with and to have my life inhabited by the misunderstood. Today at a policy making meeting, we were treated to a diversion….six minutes of video celebrating the lives of those I work with. It was not one of those polished productions that we are so often privy to, but rather a simple video made by my administrator to celebrate the work of our Developmental Training program with images and language that could be understood by our clients and inspire their families. In this video there were not only our clients, but those who have the courage to touch their lives.
It is a peculiar courage. If I am honest, the world gives little merit to the work we do and even less merit to the lives of those we serve. I wish I did not have to say such a thing, but it is true. And yet in every beaming visage that was on that video, there was the evidence that misunderstood or not, that life accounts for something.
I think of this often. I thought of it especially when on that video I saw the smile of one of the clients I have a special fondness for. I don’t know why this touched me because she smiles all the time, but it did nonetheless. I suppose it is because this was not always the case and when she came to us, she was suspicious of our care. It was as if our compassion could not be believed, for it is often hard to believe that which has not been experienced. In other words, why believe that which is too good to be true?
Of course it is different now. She has become accustomed to that which is too good to be true. She has grown to expect life’s wondrous pageant and she has come to know the concern of the grace-filled, those who see a joy and wonderment in life that is more often than not misunderstood by the masses who concern themselves with those things of little importance. That those like us should care at all for the smile on a young woman’s face is peculiar to far too many people.
We and those like us are indeed misunderstood. But to quote Emerson, “is it so bad to be misunderstood?” To see the beauty of life’s pageant and every single one of its participants must certainly make us misunderstood. This begs again to answer that question as to if it is so bad to be misunderstood. If seeing the value in every single life is a cause for misunderstanding, then thank all that is holy, there are those who are misunderstood.
The word “disabled’ is applied to those we serve, but they have no disability. To quote Anais Nin, “the only disability is the inability to love.” And the love our clients have is a flood. And the love we have who serve them, that too is a flood. If anything there is, where I work, an excess of ability. That this is misunderstood and labeled disability, so be it. We have a fortitude the world cannot know and our hands do the work that the world cannot do. That we are misunderstood….the best of us can live with that. Seeing life’s wondrous pageant is enough.