Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have love me." (John 17:20-23, NIV)

We can accomplish more together than we can individually. Common sense would dictate that. Yet, day after day I witness with great sadness plenty of divisiveness and in-fighting within the special needs community. It never ceases to frustrate me and break my heart when I see people expending so much energy in an area that is so completely useless.

It's not to say that we have to agree with everyone on everything. Debate can stimulate great examination of an issue, pondering of the details and thinking through an outcome. Vigorous conversations can be essential in getting some amazing things done. But we can disagree without being disagreeable.

Throughout the year, I get numerous phone calls and e-mails regarding quarrels going on between people that have a great deal in common. There are the individuals in the autism community who are divided because some believe that immunizations truly are a cause of their child's diagnosis while others think that possibility has been totally eliminated. The two factions look upon one another with contempt. There are the people with severe hemophilia who think those with any other bleeding disorder in no way have it as bad as them, so they view themselves as superior in some way. There are the people on committees who can't agree on an approach to dealing with a problem situation, so they go at destroying each other instead of the problem. And there are those who are jealous and disgusted with families who have more financial security than they do. There are even those who hate others in the community who refuse to use "people first language" when addressing a particular diagnosis.

All of this can amount to a tremendous amount of cannibalizing of each other when we should be uniting in battle. We become our own worst enemies. A physician at a recent conference I attended mentioned how "fractured" the particular community was, thus, making it difficult to conquer the social crisis at hand. How well put and what an awful insight!

God's intent for our lives is to join in unity. Our troubles are meant to be recycled in order to bless one another. (see one of my favorite, oft-quoted verses 2 Corinthians 1:3-4) We are meant to find common ground an pool our energies towards a positive outcome. Being polite grown-ups, learning to hold our tongues when an issue is not "life or death", and seeing others hearts instead of their sometimes clumsy actions will take us far!

Our true enemies are not one another, but injustice, exclusion, intolerance, fear. Our energies should be expended on tenderly educating the ignorant, firmly fighting the unjust, breaking down fears and exclusion by being approachable and welcoming. We can change our world and our children's future in such positive ways when we come together!

Next time you get frustrated with another in the special needs community, offer them mercy, grace and a listening ear. It will take a great amount of self-control to do it, but you may be surprised how far it carries you. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. And realize that you have more in common than you have differences. And when you reach that place of peace, know how much you make God smile. After all, He tells us: "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" (Psalm 133:1, NIV)

I encourage you to use this song as a meditation for making this your new mission:


  1. Agreed! In the UK we have several small lupus groups that are not achieving much whilst apart and yet if they were to group together as an alliance so much more could be done for support of the sufferers and for future direction.

  2. This is really beautiful, Barb. And so very, very true. As a sibling of a person with a disability, I think I tend to see all sides of every situation, and can often live comfortably with not taking sides. But that has made me acutely aware of how frequently people *do* take sides, and how tenaciously they hold onto it, even at the expense of unity, respect, and compassion. I appreciate you addressing this issue and reminding everyone of how we need to treat one another.