The least of these.

April 6, 2011 § 12 Comments

“Could that be them?” asked my husband Ray, pointing out the small group holding up cardboard protest signs in front of the courthouse.

They kept to themselves, chatting quietly.  Some slumped in wheelchairs, others leaned against the wheelchairs’ handles. Like a school of minnows seeking safety they huddled close together.

If this was the sum total of the turnout to protest Governor Scott’s planned budget cuts to the disabled the showing was as sad as the cause—and they really needed our additional two bodies.

We were still on the opposite side of Monroe Street when the group mobilized.   Signs held high, they pushed or rode or walked across the street, suddenly full of purpose.  We fell in behind them, a ragtag citizenry, fired up and ready to demand to be heard, no matter how small our number.

My heart lifted when I looked up the flight of steps to the state senate building.  Hundreds had gotten there before our small group.

As I climbed the steps I heard one of the mothers who was pushing a child in a wheelchair say, “Don’t tell me there’s no ramp.  There’s got to be a ramp.”  The stairs I had climbed without a thought were an insurmountable obstacle for them.

Eventually the mother found that ramp, but only because we, in kinder times, and as Americans, agreed that everyone deserved equal access to their government.

Standing at the top of the steps was a teen with three wooden posts in his hands, a cardboard sign stapled to each.  “Can I have one of those?”  I asked.  “Please?”  I worked one summer with Down’s Syndrome kids in New Jersey and recognized his open and trusting smile.

We Need Quality Care Not Budget Cuts was the message hand-lettered in magic marker on the sign he handed me.

The inadequate PA system crackled as the speeches began.  Those who had organized the rally on just three days notice looked gratefully out over the crowd.

I did too.  My husband’s son, Sam, who is disabled, has been cared for because, in our collective kindness, we have set aside money for group homes and medical help and caregivers.  Together we have done for Sam what no individual or family ever could.

I didn’t yell as loudly as I could have, barely swelling the chant of, “No more cuts!  No more cuts!”

With tears in my eyes, I watched the mother of an adult cerebral palsy victim wipe her son’s mouth with a napkin.

I watched a reporter from The Democrat jotting notes on a pad and hoped he would report what he’d seen with his heart, not just what he had seen with his eyes.

I watched healthcare workers wave signs that said, I Love My Job.

Love of a job assisting the disabled means loving the disabled.  It can’t be because of the money, which, even without the proposed cuts is not much.

A man who runs a group home rolled up to the microphone in his wheelchair.  He was speaking as a care provider, but also as a man who has depended on public-funded care all his life.  “I want to ask Governor Scott if he’ll come to my house and wipe my butt.”  The man teared up.  ” These people who help us are family.”

What is it worth to us to take care of the needs of those who cannot take care of themselves?  What we do next will be our answer.   If the cuts go through as proposed, many care facilities will go out of business and many of the disabled could become homeless.

This is personal.  For most of us disability has a face and a name.  In my case that name is Sam.  He didn’t do a thing to deserve the limitations he struggles with every day.  Is it too much to ask that we, the able-bodied, show our gratitude for our own good fortune by funding the care of those who are so much less lucky?

Some argue that we have no obligation to provide care to the disabled.  True.  We provide care not because we are obligated, but because we share a common humanity.   Who are we really?  Many of us identify ourselves as Christians, so let me quote Christ according to Matthew: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

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§ 12 Responses to The least of these.

  • craig reeder says:

    Wow, i’m not a religious person, but your quote was right on the money.
    Thank you adrian and ray for representing the rest of us who were unable to attend and express our collective outrage….and thank you also for your blog to remind us continually of our shared humanity.

    Like

  • You are most welcome.

    Like

  • Judy says:

    Very powerful post, Adrian. Amazing how those who are least able to help themselves are on the budget chopping block. I’m sure there are a lot less worthy line items that can be cut! Thanks for being there and helping Sam (and those like him) make their voices heard!

    Like

  • Lovely, heartfelt essay. Many thanks Adrian.

    Disability can be inherited, developing before birth (developmentally disabled) or during birth.

    But wheelchair use & other outward signs of disability can also happen to those who fortunately maneuver through this world with no disability, until age 30, 40, 50 & a careless texting while driving makes them –
    disabled.

    All we are saying is give each and every one a chance.

    Like

    • You are right Jan. Disability can happen to any of us, at any time. Disability itself is more than many of us can cope with, but add to that the loneliness of feeling as if we have been abandoned by society, and the burden becomes too great.

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  • Tgumster says:

    The mysterious Medicaid waiver is the pot of gold for those disabled and elderly Floridians who search for the end of the rainbow. Some die looking, still hopeful, yet just the myth of rainbow’s end keeps thousands living.

    There is never enough gold to buy dignity or independence–elders and the disabled community know they cannot be bought–thirty pieces of silver, however, will keep the shades down and the rainbow out.

    “‘Oh, the humanity! Oh, the humanity!'”

    Like

    • Yes, I know I over-simplified. Our experience with Sam shows us that even while cradled in our collective safety net (Sam is in a group home in California) his needs are sometimes poorly met–but the glass is definitely half full. Without the group home providing him with his own apartment he would have no adult life at all.

      Like

      • Tgumster says:

        I don’t think you over-simplified but I did. In my brief time as a state of Florida employee, I worked with the waivers (there are at least eleven in Florida). They do provide the greatest hope for community for all Americans whether those waivers are participant directed or provide group homes.

        For sometime in Florida there has been a movement to combine the waivers into one, eliminating any right to humanity, in my estimation. As you can see, this is a hobby horse of mine.

        Thank you for moving me to tears and to action.

        Like

  • I wonder if Scott and his cronies would take a dare? Let them be strapped down to a wheelchair – hands and feet, then show them the door to fend for themselves for 24 hours. Am I wrong to think that perhaps they might just get it?

    Or is this wishful thinking?

    MLS

    Like

  • How did this criminal get elected to office? I am appalled. Good story. This is all such a sad day for America.

    Like

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