Sometimes I find it hard to show love to people. I have a physical disability called cerebral palsy, so many of my relationships are unique. I have attendants who take care of my personal needs. And other people often see me and treat me differently. But I’m still trying to follow Jesus when he says, “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).
I have to direct my care because my disability has limited my ability to do things for myself. This makes it hard to be patient with others, especially if I have to train somebody new, since my limited speech slows our communication. I remember having to always remind one particular attendant of the need to fasten a belt on one of my wheelchair lifts. This attendant was apparently a slower learner than what I was used to. One time, they hooked one of the hooks on my lift wrong. It felt like my legs were up to my chin! It was so painful. And this was when my speech was so limited that I had to point to the belt or spell out what I was trying to say to them.
Even though I get very frustrated with my attendants sometimes, I understand that they are not perfect and I shouldn’t expect them to be. Still I let my temper and my impatience get the best of me because of their lack of understanding. But in those moments, God points me back to Jesus’ words in John 13:34: “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” I think it’s amazing the depth of Jesus’ love for people, even though he knows they don’t deserve it. Including me. I want to follow his example despite how I feel.
I’m learning that I have to show love whether I feel like it or not, not only to my personal attendants, but to those who have no experience with people who have disabilities, especially those from older generations. I can’t stand when people make assumptions about me because of physical appearance. Oh, I understand that it’s easy to do, because I look different from them.
I’m learning that I have to show love whether I feel like it or not.
For instance, I’m confined in a wheelchair and have limited speech, so some people assume that I’m slow. Some people call me “sweetie’’ or “honey,’’ which I hate. However, if they would only take time to listen, they would realize that I’m just like them. Still, sometimes it’s hard to show love and compassion towards them. There are times when I want to shout, “I’m twenty-six, not six!’’ Even though they don’t mean it, they make me feel like an infant. If I’m really annoyed by them, sometimes I have to count to ten to practise self control, just as the apostle Paul told us to do in Galatians 5:22-23. I believe that with the Holy Spirit’s help, I can become a person whose love includes patience and self-control, and I can be the light that the world desperately needs.
Finally, if I want to show God’s love, I have to love selflessly. Like Jesus, I have to show people patience and understanding even when it costs me something. I have to remember that love is not about how a person can serve me, but how I can serve them.
For example, besides taking care of me, one of my attendants has a second job as an educational assistant. Before Covid-19, she came to help me after her job at a school. It was great. However, recently she has been working in my house to reduce the risk of exposing me to the virus. But it’s kind of annoying to have her attention divided because she has to help her students and not just me. However, I again remember Jesus’ words that “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” I know that I have to practise this daily, because sometimes it’s not easy sharing my worker’s attention. It’s hard to love her and her students without thinking of what it is costing me. Sometimes I have to wait till she is on her break if I have a question. There are times when she needs my help with her computer or sometimes she needs to borrow my computer. These become opportunities for me to practise selflessly serving. Of course I know that I can’t love this way in my own strength, so every day I ask God to give me more grace, and he always does!
I’m learning that, despite whether I feel like it or not, or whether I like an individual or not, I have to show that kind of love that Jesus describes in John 13:34. Even though it’s not easy sometimes—especially with my workers—I’m confident that God will help me to share his continuous love towards them and with the whole world!