With Grinding Needs Everywhere... Why China?
Posted July 22, 2010


In speaking with different groups of people about a rising China, I noticed a bubbling up of anger and fear in many. These feelings seem to stem from multiple dimensions grounded in economic threat, past political distrust, and ideological oppression. So the question, “Why do you feel the need to go all the way to China to work with orphans when so many need help everywhere?” is a fair one.
 
This question, like the question of relevance I shared in the last post, had no firm answer. I simply did not know what was leading me to China. But I remember a line in the “Artist Way” that may shed some light, “Anger (and fear) can point the way, not just the finger.” Many times the things that make us feel most uncomfortable and uneasy are just the things we need to do. When we stretch, we grow.
 
I could never have dreamed how China was going to affect me. I have benefitted from the strength and wisdom of those with physical disabilities, and from the openness and love of those with int
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ellectual disabilities my entire career. The individual interactions with the children and young adults at the Hengyang welfare center and orphanage were powerful because of the extent of need. But in working with ALS patients, I am no longer a stranger to this feeling of being a helpless caregiver against overwhelming reality.
 
What I experienced in China was a deeper understanding of the needs of humanity as a whole, and this was fascinating and humbling.
 
I now have a broader perspective of the concept of victim. I left China wondering, “Who is it that one prays for?” Is it the abandoned child, or the parent with no way out and no hope? Is it the person in the park with a hard heart who looks in disgust upon a child with disabilities? Is it the corrupt government officials at local levels, or is it the party leaders wrapped in and warped by a godless ideology? If you embrace an eternal perspective, all are victims who are separated from the truth, from the source of creation, from love. So who becomes the greater victim? Who finds themselves separated the most and suffering within the greatest darkness?
 
Our physical and intellectual capabilities and our illusion of strength and independence separate us from God. This, of course, is our greatest disability. One finds those strange utterances of Jes
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us from the Mount long ago confusing and contrary to our earthly experience until one sees their own disability of heart and soul. My answer to the question, “Why go to China?” began to take form. “China is going to be an enormous part of our children’s future, and the state of China’s heart must be our concern.”
 
In every society the layers of victims are varied and many. Fear is the only constant. In some there is the fear of losing power, position, and control. In others there is the fear of not enough resource, opportunity, and security. In others still there is the fear of complete injustice and oppression. Differences, loss, disability, and death are the ultimate unknown of our human condition. Fear can lead to the exclusion of those facing these realities in any given society. When looked at this way, we realize we all are disabled.
 
Those with physical and intellectual disabilities continue to be rejected and excluded in many countries today, but we must not forget our own history. It was a short 17 years ago when my good friend, Sharon Gardner, sat at the kitchen table with visionary Justin Dart and from her wheelchair penned the lines that would lay the ground work of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Throughout most of the twentieth century American families too felt few options and resources when faced with the needs of a child with severe physical or intellectual disability. Our history of disability rights is a positive but young one.

We should be cautious not to take a
self-righteous posture with nations at a different point on the
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path. Our only concern should be a vision of justice, opportunity, and empowerment. This vision must be all that motivates us to move out in love, and not an egotistical control of the steps one should take to arrive there.
 
The only way out from underneath fear is hope. Hope in something greater.
 
I see the next generation of young people with me on this trip, and the next generation of Chinese college students visiting the orphanage with this hope. I see the work of ICC and the desire to educate and break down the barriers of superstition and fear in the Chinese community with this hope. All movement forward requires thrusting oneself off balance, extending our reach, and planting our next step some place new.
 
Wh
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y is it imperative we include and empower the physically and intellectually disabled populations within all human societies? We need to because our spiritual evolution depends on it. These individuals we so quickly devalue have abilities we “temporarily” able-bodied and able-minded don’t have. They have the potential for strength and wisdom, a tenderness, openness, and fearless love that we simply do not recognize in our competitive and materialistic world. Those with physical and intellectual challenges may have disabilities we can see, but those with heart and soul challenges have disabilities that will eventually take down a family, a nation, a spiritually conscious species. Not until we become aware of our own brokenness and fear can we embrace the universality of the vulnerable heart. It is from here we will begin to see every human being as a valuable link in the chain of humanity.
 
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When a society only places value on the physical and intellectual capacity of its members to give back to the whole, this society starves its heart and its soul. It remains incomplete.
 
I am moved by the last lines of the book, Becoming Human, by Jean Vanier.
 
“We are simply human beings, enfolded in weakness and in hope, called together to change our world one heart at a time.”
 
Thank you for joining me in my journey to China.
Michele