Proselytizing & Disability

This isn’t exactly a Catholic topic, but there’s three main reasons I wanted to write about it.

  • I like that the Catholic Church isn’t as into proselytizing as other denominations of Christianity.
  • I don’t think I’d be wrong in assuming most, if not everyone, with a disability has a proselytizing story, not unlike prayer related stories.
  • It’s a topic that needs to be discussed from anther, potential, point of view.

I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve been proselytized to. Now I typically listen for 15-20 seconds, if that, plaster on a small smile and nod every once and a while. Then the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher just comes out of their mouth.

The smile & the nod is just an attempt to avoid becoming Peppermint Patti, which doesn’t always work. Yes, I have almost fallen asleep while people are trying to have a meaningful conversation with me.

I hate to say it (well not really) but it’s one of the reasons why I don’t like striking up a casual conversation with anyone I don’t know in public. I know my wheelchair makes me an “easy target” for a lot of things so if I want to avoid being such an easy target I have to be “less friendly.”

I’ve been proselytized to at the public pool and the state fair, and those are just two of the more memorable ones.

Usually I say very little, if anything in return. How can I when I’m not really paying attention? But there are times when I do.

During a state fair an older women using a wheelchair passed me and when were close enough to each other she tried to take my hand (I don’t do that kind of thing so I keep my hands on my rims and pretend not to notice) and said, “You know, someday you and I won’t need these things……”

I responded with “I like my wheelchair, and who I am,” smiled, and went on with my day (hoping I won’t see her again).

Full disclosure moment: One of my biggest problems with Protestant denominations is the emphasis on proselytizing, particularly towards whoever they deem “weak and vulnerable” (which those with disabilities are usually included).

I’m not going to pretend that everyone has my same take on the subject so I’m going to give you my point of view.

One of the biggest issues I have when people proselytize to me is the constant need to compare. It’s a problem I have anyway but add the proselytizing aspect to it and my brain tries to crawl out of my skull until you’re done with your sales pitch.

Most recently, although it wasn’t the first time, nor will it probably be the last, I was compared to Joni Eareckson Tata. Now I’m not going to say I don’t have anything in common with her but I doubt I have as much as in common with her as people thing or that we share the commonalities that people think.

I’ve been told, multiple times by multiple people, that she would be an ultimate source of inspiration for me. That’s a pretty tall order from someone who doesn’t know me and a pretty big burden to put on someone else who isn’t even directly involved in the conversation, nothing against Joni personally.

Think about what you’re going to say before you say it, like prayer, the saints, and in a way miracles, how you say it is more important than that you say it. Individuals with disabilities have a hard time with certain topics for a variety of reasons, which includes but is not limited to, previous unpleasant encounters.

It’s OK to want to share your faith with others but please get to know someone before you start talking about such personal matters that can run so deep. But if you must say something keep it short and sweet and positive. Telling someone to “Have a good day” can mean much more than anything from the “Do you know Jesus?” category.

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