Friday, April 11, 2008


as many of your know, i regularly have the privilege of assisting and accompanying individuals with significant physical and intellectual disabilities as they take their first steps out of high school sped programs and step into the world of competitive employment. i don't claim to be a perfect advocate for my clients, but i pour a lot of myself into my work, i have helped a number of clients achieve better employment outcomes than they would have likely achieved without me and i revel in my client's success. so please keep the former paragraph in mind as you read the following gross generalization.

family is the greatest disability.

over the past year i have worked with a number of parents who through their love, support, chiding and encouragement have empowered their children to transform their limited skills into an effective means of serving their employer, community, family and selves well. however, more often than i would like to admit, i have run into families who have used their adult children as a ssi funded atm card, protected them from the risk that accompanies almost every success and seemingly expected everyone but themselves to guide their children into personal maturity and social responsibility.

now that i've stepped in it, i'd like to affirm that, fortunately, the majority of my client's parents, guardian's and support teams are incredibly supportive. moreover, i didn't pen this post in order to harangue the failures of families who have been dealt a difficult hand.

rather, a i reflect on the often fractured nature of of the families of my clients, colleagues and myself, i cannot help but wonder what the church is doing to help members develop healthy families that can be characterized by such virtues as service, fidelity, fiscal responsibility, integrity and commitment to city, town and neighbor. i don't know about you, but in the churches i grew up in, and not a few of those that i have attended and, yes, helped lead since, we have vigilantly sought to "protect" the family from perceived threats such as homosexuality, evolutionary theory, drugs,* democrats, "welfare queens" and darker skinned aliens** and neighbors. however, in the midst of our defensive posture we have also too often failed to proactively and comprehensively address the internal poisons that plague so many families and, ultimately, produce these catastrophic disabilities that are so.damn.difficult to remedy.

a month or so ago a close friend said that she thought the church should offer classes on curtailing the gossip that so easily entangles our tongues and damages so many lives. i really think she is onto something. shouldn't our faith communities also be offering innovative and integrative education and accompaniment concerning topics such as interpersonal conflict, anger, infidelity, money management,*** sustainable living, substance abuse, employment assistance, child rearing, etc?

as much as i love preaching Scripture and leading people in a roughly expository way through the teachings of the Judeo-Christian faith, i don't think that occasionally preaching through series such as "extreme money makeover!" is going to cut it. instead, i suspect that we're going to have to completely rethink our past educational approaches and create more holistic learning environments if we are going to replace the nasty generalization i typed**** above with a more positive statement such as:

family is the greatest incubator, encourager and sustainer of ability.

please take everything i've said above with a grain of salt. i'm often quick to generalize and i'm also bit of an asshole. i've also spent the past twenty minutes thinking about the horrendous denkinger call that crippled the '85 cardinals and saddled the baseball universe with an undeserving champion. the latter thoughts have left me somewhat less sanguine than usual.

* not hugs.
** side note: we seriously need to reconsider what Scripture has to say about the orientation of our communities to this group.
*** i realize that many churches already tackle this topic head on, and that's great. however, i don't think a community
can provide enough resources in this area.
**** with some measure of fear and trembling.


g13 said...

for the record, this picture does not feature any of my clients, so please save your hipaa bullets for a more meaningful assault.

i also freely and fully admit my own familial failures and relational retardation. i suppose i could have written about that at some length, but i try not to discuss my own family too much in this space.

Smee said...

Another thoughtful musing, my friend...

By the way, no post re: Preston's birthday?!?

slowfo said...

Great post. I recently heard another in ministry mention that the Church talks much of discipling but very rarely gives parents the encouragement and training to disciple their own kids.

My friend, I know it's been some time since I've seen you but I'm having trouble making out which in the above picture is you. Are you the one in the red sweatshirt?

g13 said...

smee - i'll get something up sooner or later. maybe. i tend to be a little reticent about talking family on the blog.

scotty - that's me in the green, squatting front and center.

Clovis said...

Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes YES!

As much as I love my family, I have to admit that most of my psychological problems came from them. My father, mother, sister and brother are clearly all depressives, although some of them haven't been diagnosed.

On an episde of the British TV show Red Dwarf, there's a society in which the family has been abolished. I'm intriuged by that idea.

g13 said...

i'm glad that the post resonated chris.

don't know if i can agree with you on the whole abolishment of family idea though. i kindof dig my little p.

Agent B said...

Don't be cautious about writing on this topic. It is very needed. Good expose, Agent G13.

I would also add: how many, MANY parents of non-handicapped children burden their offspring by encouraging them to "hang around" well through their 20s and even 30s. *Shudder* children living w/ mom-n-dad: one of my biggest pet peeves.

I know in the poverty culture, it is dang near impossible for an offspring to "better themselves" as family will always drag them back down to their level. Ruby Payne wrote on that topic much in A Framework For Understanding Poverty. But I think it translates to the topic you're writing very easily.