The Wisdom of Disability in a Time of Corona-virus

Crisis. A word with multiple meanings and mental images. Insurmountable problems. Impossible decisions. Arresting cable news headlines meant to capture attention.

My personal favorite? DC Comics superhero-crossover events. More recently seen in the CW’s Arrowverse “Crisis on Infinite Earths”.

Many are beginning to feel personal interpretations in this cultural moment due to COVID-19. We wonder if this might become commonplace. If partial, and personal, inconveniences may become more permanent. Unfortunately, media – be it news or social platforms – often exacerbate this. 

Pondering the moment we’re in, I keep returning to a thought I’ve had recently. When your daily life is consistently one of difficulty and challenge, communal crisis catapults culture into catching up to where you live.

Whether I like it or not, my life is one of difficulty and challenge because I live with Cerebral Palsy. Premature birth complications led to brain damage that negatively affects mobility, muscle function, and motor skills. All this, after the supposed death sentence that was early medical prognosis.  

Cerebral Palsy isn’t a part of daily life that I lean too heavily into or let define my totality. Nevertheless, it is something that is clear, present, and concerning. It requires thinking about how I move along local pathways, weighing options and possibilities of social presence and function. Additionally, it means sometimes pushing back against a self-reliant spirit and leaning on others. Sometimes, social distance and introversion for the sake of my health. Easier to do as joints age faster than birthdays come and go.   

Embracing A Terrible Privilege

Like Tony Stark’s internal arc reactor, this is terrible privilege. It’s terrible because of the circumstances that created my Cerebral Palsy and its challenges, but a privilege because it’s often what allows for facilitating redemptive good for others (often at great cost). Such challenges, no matter how “easy” or “good” we make things look, are far more consistent with our regular experiences and daily lives. This is what modern American culture is beginning to wake up to. Therefore, allow those who live this to speak wisdom often left unsaid. Lean on, and learn from, those who live with empathy and understanding, allowing redemptive good to be facilitated through it.   

Those with medical challenges are often more community minded – as it relates to our place and public presence – because of hardship. Nevertheless, allowing others to be present with us can be a two-way street. It allows someone an opportunity to serve while also slowing life down as quieter, measured, perspective is offered among a Culture of Noise). The community-mindedness that come easier to some pushes against the self-reliance we are ALL often taught as a form of personal power and control. This self-reliance comes via an American cultural consciousness that is more individualistic than communal. Therefore an unexpected tension offers us  a journey of deep and irrevocable change to find, remain, and live peacefully in an uncomfortable space.

A Professor’s Heroic Hope

In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Charles Xavier, the wheelchair-bound leader of the X-Men, shows what this space can look like. A younger, drug-dependent Charles gives up the drug that suppresses his powers – and allows him to walk – after an encounter with his older self. The older Professor encourages his younger self to hope again (to have tenacious confidence in future expectation). Younger Charles is confronted with and ability to bear others burdens born out of his own places of personal pain. He relinquishes what he wants most engage with the suffering in the world around him through his mutant ability.  His character arc is one of suffering producing perseverance, perseverance leading to deeper character, and that deeper character facilitating hope. This hope is a tenacious confidence in future expectation. Our moment is no different than his: a time to persevere towards hope while crafting deeper character along the way.

When your daily life is consistently one of difficulty and challenge, communal crisis catapults culture into catching up to where you live

As much as you think we need you, and we do, the reality may be that you need us all the more. Some of us actually be in greater medical danger from COVID-19. So when you call, text, or knock on the door, don’t stop there. Sit and be present to the degree that you can. Even if it means getting down to be at our level (literally or metaphorically). Mind what you learn from us, for save your sanity it may (by offering a degree of calm and peace).  

The most endearing and enduring stories – from Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and comic book superheroes, to The Hunger Games, and the Story of Jesus,  often find heroism in the unexpected and hope in the places un-looked for. This is a moment wherein we have the opportunity to look for hope, a confident expectation of the future, and live out heroism among our communities. Let it begin with learning wisdom from the unexpected place of humble posture and an ear for empathy. To a vastly independent and individualistic culture, welcome to our party of terrible privilege and costly hope. We’re glad you’re catching up; we’ve been saving a seat for you.

Posted on by Aaron in Uncategorized

About Aaron

Author, Speaker, and Super Nerd. Aaron Welty speaks and writes regularly connecting the dots of life, faith, and science fiction. Originally from Michigan, he now lives and works in the Washington, D.C. Metro area.

One Response to The Wisdom of Disability in a Time of Corona-virus

  1. Jenni elwood

    Great work friend. One of my favorite memories of our trip to Greece was slowing down in Athens and keeping pace with you. I’ve actually thought about it several times since then – how good it was so slow down and absorb. A good memory to hold on to as I embrace the new requirements of my city (though I pretty much already doing that) and slow down with my family as we sojourn into new normal.

Add a Comment

301 Moved Permanently

Moved Permanently

The document has moved here.