"Last One Picked, So
Remember when your church one day invited you to a meeting? They were going to build a house and were going to help people in crisis; perhaps paint a house. There were many meetings to work on the details of this trip. Airline tickets, hotels, places to get fed while we were working. After about six months the day arrived to leave the church parking lot and head to the airport. Think of this scenario. The mission team arrived at the airport. We were in line and there was a man in the line that was not a part of the mission team. We knew him from our church but had no idea he was coming. We thought how was he able to know where we were going? This silent person had taken many hours of planning and never said a word but now he is in line. Yes the same line we were in to board for our mission trip. The advisor of the trip was very concerned. There were many questions that were floating through their minds. The biggest one was, “What is he doing here” Who would take responsibility” and “How would we get anything done with him being with us”. These are questions that mission trip faced when someone came with autism. Yes he went on the trip. No one took responsibility as he took responsibility for himself.
After many years of mission trips he is still part of going along with us. He travels alone to different parts of the country. He enjoys helping people. This silent person that was involved with many meetings in the background understands the meaning of belonging to a community larger than he is.
In this blog I hope that you will share your stories about your life and other people’s life and also want to share resources that will be helpful to the disability community of the United Church of Christ of South Dakota.
The man with autism is a part of the church. He wants to be a part
of the work and mission of the church. I share this as I have spent
time with this individual three years ago. My wife Dee and I were
invited to be a part of “Widen the Welcome” conference in Columbus,
Ohio. This individual was involved with us during our stay there.
We need to understand that sometimes we want to take responsibility
but understand that individuals that seem that they are not
responsible can take responsibility for their own activities. This
individual planned his trip in silence as he could not express
himself so he did it in a way that was natural to him by getting his
own airline tickets, hotel and other necessities. We want to let him
know that he is welcome because the church is for all people in
spite of our differences by the grace of God. The challenge to all
of us is how wide is our welcome as a church. We must learn from him
about people with disabilities and how they cope in different
situations and allow them to be a part of “Widen the Welcome” in the
United Church of Christ. Will you share your stories, experiences
and resources in this blog so that we all can learn from each other
and become a stronger church because of it. I welcome you to be a
part of this blog.--Ben D. Anderson
ADVOCACY STILL GOING STRONG AND
As most readers might know (via our
Facebook pages and our website
We need to look at our words and actions.
Stand back sometime and look at what you
Have a great day!"
Ben D. and Dee Anderson
Can you imagine going to a park that everybody could
enjoy even if you are in a wheelchair? That person could swing, ride
the train, fish and much, much more.
From Ben's Desk--"Ben has a point"
The Need for Awareness Doesn't Stop"
One Sunday I walked into an eating establishment. I was met by the host. He said,-- "I'm sorry, but I think you've had too much to drink so would you come back another day."
For some reason I began to talk to him about my disability, which is Cerebral Palsy. The conversation went on and finally he said,
I took the time to help him understand that I had a disability. He took the time to listen and to ask questions. It's important to be able to have a two way discussion when talking attitudes so both parties understand each other. The need for awareness doesn't stop there. Everyday someone is helping someone else to become aware about the issues facing persons with disability.
What are you doing to help to make others aware?
Please email and tell us
Ben D. Anderson CEO-- Break Through Inc.
See Ben's "Parent Groups" page at Break Through Inc. for information regarding his workshops and speaking for parents and families.
"Looking Beyond the Cover"- by Ben D. Anderson-
I am reminded about human behavior as I think back about my childhood as a person with a disability. I remember all the times that I was picked on by my peers. I could not understand why? As I became an adult I discovered that people who pick on others are normally struggling with their own self image! I have asked many young people about this as I have traveled throughout the United States and spoken on the subject of disability. I have two questions.
#1- How many of you have been teased?
#2- How many of you have teased others?
Surprising enough, I find almost all the same hands come up on both questions. Only a few brave souls admit they struggle with self image. I would like to share a story with you that I often share with teenagers about 'Looking beyond the Cover'.
Once upon a time there was a crowd of people in an outdoor mall. In the middle the mall was a huge box. People were using the box to lean on. A little boy and his mother approached and the boy asked his mother if he could go and see the big box? His mother had been shopping all morning but finally gave in to her son and said they would go and look at the big box. As they got closer to the area the mother lost track of her son. She glanced up and saw him going through the legs of the grown ups so he could get closer to the box.
Like a parent she was embarrassed. But the boy got closer and closer to the box and when he got to the box he began to unwrap it as it was nicely wrapped with gift paper.
Suddenly the boy heard a tiny voice that seemed like it came from inside the box The boy continued to unwrap. And sure enough, as he opened the box there was person inside! The crowd was amazed and asked,
The person said, "You put me in that box. I am a person with a disability and often have been made fun of as people misunderstand me. They look at my disability and rather than the person I really am. Why the box? The box becomes a 'safe place'. You put me there and I put myself there. At least there is more conversation about the box than my disability."
We human beings have a tendency to look at the outside of a person and begin to judge them by that.
Thankfully, there are people, like the boy in the story, that are able to look beyond the box, unwrap it, and to help that person to become his or her friend. Looking beyond the cover is the key to getting to know a person. I hope this story will help you and encourage you. Number one -- to understand that you are not alone in needing to find friends that will go beyond the cover to find your true self. Number two--- to avoid judging people by the cover and look deep inside to see the real person.
I understand about being overlooked and being chosen last. It has happened to me many times. It is a human behavior to look at the cover. My challenge to the us all is to look beyond the cover and find the wonderful person. Today I realize that I am a lot more than what people think I am. You are also a person with great gifts and talents. Let's all realize that we can go beyond our situation and dream about a great and adventurous future.
"He was a fourth
grader. He was crying as I stopped and asked him "why" and he shook
his head and didn't answer me. One of his teachers said-"Thank
you for being honest". Did I touch a nerve? Perhaps, as I was
speaking to some grade school children about "bullying". As I
learned later, he had to hear my message. He was one of the kids
that was perhaps being a bully to others. His teacher said it was
good for him to be honest.
In the last two and
half weeks my wife and I have traveled throughout the State of South
Dakota lecturing to students about "disabilities and bullying". It
was a great time but we will leave this tour with a reminder that we
all make mistakes like the boy needed to come face to face with
reality. I ask will you make a promise not to use the "R" word
This tour we saw
almost 1700 people that heard my message. How about you? Can you
take up the challenge of not using negative words like the "R" word.
Can you also take the challenge of not bullying others? South Dakota
has been a good time and a hard time for people to listen to my
message as they come to grips with their own reality. But I left
with a "High Five" with that young boy. We are now hopefully friends
as he will remember the promise that he made."-- Ben
Using Language That
The other day I
received a request to write a piece on the subject of using the word
"mentally retarded" that is being used by students to make fun of
As I reflect on these last 30 years. I’m not only amazed about where this organization has been, but by the people that have touched my life and allowed me to be a part of theirs. One important piece of the organization in the early years was to do home visits. To sit down with families, listen to them, discuss their child, and try to give them some encouragement. I have always enjoyed getting together with families because many of them become life long friends.
It is always fun to meet different congregations and to represent people with disabilities. What a humbling experience it is to have someone come up afterwards and say, “Your words have touched my life.”
Whether it is at school, camp, church or an event it is joyful and challenging to work at youth gatherings. Youth are full of fun and excitement and many times I get caught up in their energy. You can’t help but get caught up in their energy. Kids add a new point of view and new hope.
After being at many businesses and universities I can see that people are interested in learning how to relate better to others with disabilities and how to deal with their own disabilities.
It is really hard to know the impact of the message I have given over the years. But one hopes that it helps people. Many times I have received notes from someone I have been with in the recent past and they talk about what my message meant to them on a personal level.
My wife Dee and I look forward to meeting many more friends in the next decade.
Ben D. Anderson