As always, click the “play” button below if you prefer to hear the squirrel chatter (or click the audio file if you subscribe and have the post delivered to your Email). Actually, it’s just Amy J. reading her post to you!
Like some of you, Dear Reader, I too have a child who will soon graduate from high school. She will leave home this August and move to her college campus. I think the life events of the last three years have actually made this process easier for me than it would have been. I’m under no illusion. My kids are only on loan to me. As parents we want to pretend we can protect them and control what swirls around them, but we can’t. And so it’s this reality which actually makes it easier for me to let my daughter move out into this world.
On the other hand, there’s a lot more preparation which goes into a paraplegic moving to college compared to an able-bodied young adult. That’s not a complaint. It’s just a fact. Think of all the things an able-bodied young person and her family needs to prepare and think through for college, and then add paralysis to all of that. It’s a game-changer.
So we have been in contact, multiple times, with the Disabilities Coordinator at our daughter’s college. Not only have there been numerous emails and phone calls, but there have been several meetings. This past February, one of our meetings not only involved the Disabilities Coordinator, but also the Residence Life Director and the Facilities Manager for the college.
Let’s face it, the Facilities Team is going to have a lot of extra work to do over the next four years simply because of my daughter. The furniture in her room will all need some work, as most of it will need to be adjusted. The college is currently working on a parking space right outside her residence hall that will work with the homemade lift her dad designed and built so she can get her wheelchair in and out of her vehicle.
Northern Indiana snow and ice is a formidable opponent for anyone, let alone a paraplegic. The Facilities Team is charged with knowing Alissa’s schedule and making sure the paths she needs to travel are cleared. If an elevator breaks down, it’s not just convenience that is lost for my daughter, as taking the stairs is currently just a dream. Architects meet code and well-meaning folks think they are making situations accessible, but the real proof comes when Alissa actually has to navigate the territory.
My husband, son, and I know how much goes into modifying life for Alissa. We do it because we love her, and yes, a lot of the time, her brother does it out of sheer obligation. (After all, they are teenage siblings!) So when my family met with the Facilities Manager, this wasn’t our first rodeo. We had an idea of what we were asking of him and his team.
He was a soft spoken man who listened carefully. When he spoke, he mentioned a recent graduate of the college, who like my daughter, is wheelchair bound. Very sincerely, he said with a gentle smile on his face, “She was such a blessing to all of us while she was here.” I can’t remember his exact wording after that, so I don’t want to quote him; his implication was that my daughter, too, would be a blessing to him and the rest of the campus community.
Well, yeah! As her mother, I know that’s true, but for him to fondly remember a gal whose disability created extra work for him and be certain my daughter’s disability would be worth the blessings she’ll bring to the campus? That made me want to sob. (Although I did hold it together during the meeting because I didn’t want these people to think I was a total basket case!) He didn’t appear rattled or put out or disgusted about any of the extra work Alissa’s paralysis would cause him.
I’ve had people upset with me because I’ve simply asked them to move a rug, or a piece of furniture, or not park their able-bodies in a handicapped parking space. But these folks aren’t like those people; they want Alissa at their campus. They are counting on her being a blessing rather than a hardship. They think she’s worth the extra work. They are going to take care of her to the very best of their ability.
The world has made up its mind who is worthwhile in this society. The world places great worth on the beautiful people, the extra-talented people, the rich people, and the powerful people. At a small, private Christian college in Northern Indiana, there’s a ton of grace! This staff is committed to seeing people, not through the eyes of the world, but through the eyes of Jesus Christ.
This campus plans on seeing the paraplegic eighteen year old for the blessing she is. Oh my goodness, how different our world would be if we all chose to see with that kind of vision. The Facilities Manager is not a professor, yet he is wiser than most with a PhD. Over the last three years we’ve seen many many people stare at Alissa, but how thankful we are to know that at college, there are people who will really see her. They will really. See. Her.
Until next Wednesday, Lord willing, when maybe I will talk about why I always end these blogs with the phrase, “Lord willing.”