This summer I was invited to volunteer at a Joni & Friends Family Retreat which offers an oasis for families who have a member with a disability. Our main meeting room was an auditorium called The Anchor which had tiered seating. I walked in the first day and immediately noticed a problem: there were no railings. Suddenly, I found myself stuck. I could make it down the steps with assistance, but for the rest of week, I found myself sitting in the back.
I’m a front row girl. I like to up where the action is. I like to be seen, and the teacher in me knows that the rate of retention is higher when you sit in the front. But, I was in the back that week, separated often from the people I came to camp with. I wasn’t just seated towards the back of the room I was seated behind the platform that was constructed for people who use wheel chairs.
I found myself distracted, unable to see, and crowded. What’s worse, I began feeling sorry for myself. It’s hard to walk into a room and suddenly realize that you can’t fully participate because the way the room is constructed. So many places have railings that this took me by surprise.
What good could come of this?
Day after day, a man was wheeled in front of me to hear the sermons. As I sat behind him, I began to wonder, “What was his name? What was his story? How tall is he?” He happened to be in my small group break out session afterwards. I had the opportunity to talk to his family and learned they lived just minutes from my house. I reached out to him on Facebook after camp and we have since become good friends. We’ve spent a lot of time together this year and our friendship has become an incredible gift.
It’s hard when one path is seemingly blocked in a life due to a disability, but incredible to behold how a change in course can open the door to opportunity.