Listening to Difficult Speech
A couple of years ago, my friend Penny loaned me a beautiful book called Imaging the Word, full of poetry and art to inspire prayers throughout the liturgical year. Of all the entries in the book, one that stood out for me is called “Beatitudes for Friends and Family,” by an unknown author with cerebral palsy. It reminded me so much of our dear friend Carolyn Finnell, who passed away a couple of years ago.
Carolyn was one of the “foot soldier” heroes (perhaps not the best term, since she always used a wheel chair) of the civil rights movement for people with disabilities. Carolyn travelled across the country with a group of rabble-rousers, who were arrested many times for helping the disabled gain access to independent housing and public transportation through their peaceful protests. But we knew Carolyn best as a founder of TRYAD, a Christian community that invited and taught many of us to slow down and enjoy fellowship with people who have disabilities. I always thought she could have written this prayer herself.
Recently Scott Lundeen invited some of Carolyn’s old friends at TRYAD to recite this blessing on film, which we’ve included above. Take 3 minutes to watch, and your spirit will be moved. (Scott is the producer of the Urban Entry video series, helping people of faith wrestle with issues of faith and action in an urbanizing world. This clip from the first video in the series, available here.)
While the beatitudes were written specifically on behalf of people with disabilities, I think they have much to say to us about how we walk and serve with all kinds of people whose abilities have been limited by poverty, oppression, and marginalization. To “listen to difficult speech” is part of our calling as followers of Jesus.
Here are the beatitudes, dedicated to Carolyn’s memory and TRYAD’s ongoing ministry:
Beatitudes for Friends and Family
Blessed are you who take time to listen to difficult speech,
for you help us persevere until we are understood.
Blessed are you who walk with us in public places
and ignore the stares of strangers,
for we find havens of relaxation in your companionship.
Blessed are you who never bid us to “hurry up,”
and more blessed are you who do not snatch our tasks
from our hands to do them for us,
for often we need time – rather than help.
Blessed are you who stand beside us,
as we enter new and untried ventures,
for the delight we feel when we surprise you
outweighs all the frustrating failures.
Blessed are you who ask for our help,
for our greatest need is to be needed.
- Author Unknown
directs Mile High Ministries
listens to Miles and John Lee
looks (and sings) more like Willie Nelson