Living with a disability from birth, there are certain things you learn to live with. Discrimination is one of these things. I’ve been denied jobs because of my disability, and the perceived inability to do the job adequately because of my physical appearance. I was even asked once if I had the ability to write things down–ironically I went to college and majored in Communication, so yes, I am able to write things down 😉 . Speaking of college, there was one painful incident involving adequate housing for my needs my last year of school. But the most painful discrimination I’ve experienced occurred in my own church denomination.
The other day I mentioned that I lived with several other young adults for one year during a voluntary service program after college. This was not my first attempt at working for a such a program. Shortly before I graduated college, I applied to be a part of my church denomination’s one-year voluntary service program. After the interview process, I realized I wasn’t ready, so I withdrew my application. Fast forward one year later. I had graduated and was figuring out my next steps. So I applied again for the same VS program. This time I went a bit further and was still interested after the interview process. Several weeks after my interview, I received a letter by email, informing me that although I showed a continued interest in the program, there were concerns that I wouldn’t be able to handle the proposed 40-hour work week, having never had a full-time job, but how many recent college graduates have this level of experience? In addition to this, there were concerns about accessibility at work and living sites. During my interview, I explained that I’d need accommodations, but minimal at most. After I received this email, I was devastated and walked around in a daze for a few weeks. I never expected my own church to discount my abilities because of my disabilities.
Around this time, the pastor of my church called me and asked me to lunch. She had heard about my troubles and wanted to let me know of a new VS program that was just starting up in a neighboring state. I immediately applied and within days received a call that I had been accepted. I couldn’t believe it! They even asked me what they needed to do to make things accessible. I moved to my new assignment 3 weeks later, and all in all the year was a wonderful experience. I ended up living in that same city for the next 6 years.
The previous story contained two different outcomes, from essentially the same source–the church. A place that is supposed to accept you as you are, and help you grow. But here is what I’ve learned in the years since this experience: the church is made up of people. People are fallible and make mistakes. As Christians we are called to forgive them. And realize life this side of heaven is going to be unfair at best some days. And in the end, know without a shadow of a doubt, that we are loved more fiercely than we know by our Heavenly Father. :-)
I hope this encourages you today if you are struggling with similar circumstances. Know that you are most certainly not alone. I’ll see you again tomorrow.