The Glimmer can we ignite it again

Posted: July 19, 2018 by Ty in Belonging Pyramid
Tags: , , ,

In 1998 Mark Wills’ released a song, “Don’t Laugh at Me” (listen here) following on the idea of anti-bullying, and building on the momentum of inclusion. It was a time of hope for some, as the world had been slowly moving away from locking away that which made us uncomfortable, or victim blaming (yes I know it still existed, but there was a glimmer). In Canada through things like the Waterloo model de-institutionalization of persons who were differently abled was happening and appropriate community supports for accessibility, and inclusion were being brought online in Ontario.

As you look at the inverted belonging pyramid it was a time, and moving forward until the last few years where some strides were made. New builds were taking into account some aspects of universal design (until a boom, then it halted), and some retrofits were happening. Yet it was localized. Much like today. We look at the current existence within our community, the current demographic and that is what we retrofit to. We cannot, or more truthfully, will not think into the future. I remember being part of a church renovation that built up by multiple floors, when I spoke about building outwards for accessibility (most of the congregation at time of reno was in their 60’s) I was mocked that there would not be a reason, for the stairs over four floors were not that bad.

And then there’s the voice of the reader going– damn it can’t you just be greatful. Surely it is not as horrible as you make it out to be. There is truth to that, and there are moments of gratefulness, unfortunately I find when you lay those out the community stalls out patting themselves on the back and not moving forward anymore. It has happened when I have praised churches for what has been experienced as positive then get smacked with passive ableism (moving statements that spoke of all abilities to change it to health, back to a medical need to be healed lens).

We as a family have hovered mostly on the line in the pyramid between accessibility and inclusion. I understand the financial challenges for physical retrofits on aging buildings, so there is quite a bit of forgiveness we hold in our hearts on that. The side effect, being like the building that built up instead of out– there is much offered by communities we associate with that we cannot participate in, especially now that our kids are getting bigger.

Accessibility is the easy one to speak of that being buildings that are flat so all can be easily accessed. Or those that are older having a lift system put in and keeping it up, when it goes down prioritizing that it is fixed. As well, I do hold the Catholics and Anglicans to a high grace for inclusion in the sacraments, for even if you cannot partake of something such as Communion (Eucharist) all are welcomed forward and all can participate somehow, even if it is a blessing.

Which brings us into inclusion. The small Moravian church, that did not want to default to our daughter being the support for our son, asked us for information on both kids, their personalities and abilities so they could support them as individuals within the children’s ministry. Moments in other churches when elders would love on them. The children’s ministry leader that came and spoke directly to my son about his day, and if he wanted to come be her buddy in Sunday School, not asking us first. The lady who plans the Sonrise Easter egg hunt for the kids and searches out ways for the “super heroes” to find eggs as well as the other kids (the balloons attached to their eggs, brilliant). The folks that will say “at first we were annoyed, but once you weren’t around for a few Sundays due to your fundraising on the parades we realized the joy that him being as Spirit created him…well that was missing and so was a piece of us”. Visiting in hospital, sharing meals and households, kids playing and cutting up together.

Some of those sound like belonging to some readers I know. And if that was all the dynamics of community I would agree. Yet they are spread throughout a history within structured spirituality that has run from conservative/orthodox to progressive to metaphysical.

Why have we not left simply inclusion (a space created for you, if you earn the spot)?

Simple. Those that speak as allies, become silent when the “powers to be” in the community have their own beliefs challenged. This can be around a medical lens/deficit or realizing that to truly make the building accessible for inclusion to belonging challenged the financial drives of other projects they saw as more important and besides, the building is within “city code”.

The push becomes the shove. Where you thought belonging could be experienced, it becomes the shove out. But its okay because you have friends.

No, it is not only the Jehovah Witness’ that “shun”. They are just transparent about it.

You become shunned because, well, you challenged the paradigm and if it looks like they continue the friendship…sorry, we just aren’t strong like you to lose this community.

When you begin as a community to look at accessibility, it may be the most expensive end on a new build, or a retrofit, but it allows the circle to be drawn wider. Remember though, those two need to feed into belonging.

And that is the scariest word in any language for someone that is not seen as fitting in– belonging.

So are you one that laughs? Or one that welcomes?

Are you one that will risk being shunned…that all can belong?

 

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