Friday, April 27, 2012

Accessibilty


Father Tasto,

Last Sunday my family and I decided to come back to church. We were members of St. Thomas for at least 3 years and attended regularly until the birth of my third son. Life got in the way and went hadn’t been back on a regular basis for a good three years. Occasionally my husband and my oldest son, who’s eight would attend mass. After having a pleasurable experience at our in-laws church in Fond du Lac Wisconsin, we decided it was time to get the family back to church on a regular basis. 

We loaded everyone into the van and drove to the 11 a.m. mass. We arrived and unloaded from the van. When we got to the entrance, we headed straight to the elevator, as our 6 year old is profoundly disabled and requires a wheelchair for mobility. My husband waited in front of the elevator while I escorted my four and eight year old to the main level. My boys were actually very excited to go to church, we waited for my husband and other son by the elevator. After a few minutes, a boy handing out programs informed me that the elevator was broken. My boys and I went to the front entrance because I thought surely there was a ramp entrance. Out of all the many doors to enter the church, none of these was accessible without the elevator. By that time my husband had met us on the front walkway where we were faced with about fourteen steps to climb.

Unfortunately I am not strong enough to help my husband lift the chair up the steps.

The thing that struck me the most that morning was the fact that as I stood with my family, I watched as my fellow parishioners walked by us. No one gave us a second glance. I would normally go inside and ask for help lifting the wheelchair. But because others were not concerned with our plight I was very discouraged. I started to cry on the front walkway as people continued to walk by us. My tears turned to many; this was not the first time my son in the wheelchair had been left out. My eight year old held my hand and told me it would be okay.

No one offered help, or even inquired what was wrong.  

We walked back to our van and went home.

I write this not to inform you of a problem with the building’s accessibility issues, but more to inform you of your parishioners lack of compassion. I am not one to judge others nor do I expect too much from anyone else. But I would hope that if I was on my way to church and I saw a mother crying with a son in a wheelchair at the base of the stairs, someone would stop and offer some kind of assistance. Surely not getting to church on time can be forgiven if you are helping someone get there too.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely yours,

Sue Sullivan

Sunday, April 22, 2012

How Come?

"Why is Dermot here?", he asked, and for a nano second,       I was offended. But then I remembered, he's eight.
"Why wouldn't he be here, he's Owen's brother." I answered.
"But he can't play basketball" he continued.
"I know, but do you know what Dermot's favorite thing to do is?"
He shook his head.
"He loves being around lots of kids and listening to them play."
That satisfied him for a while and off he went to play basketball with all the other eight year olds attending Owen's birthday party.

Not being a great basketball player, he returned while I was preparing the tables for the influx of Pizza Hut that was on it's way.

What does Dermot do?, does Dermot go to school?, does Dermot have a bed?, does Dermot have other friends that are in wheelchairs?, how much did his wheelchair cost?

After answering many questions about Dermot I stopped what I was doing, rolled Dermot closer to the curious one and sat down on the bench next to him.

"Do you know anyone else who uses a wheelchair?" I asked.
"No."
"It's different, huh?"
"Yeah."

I decided this wasn't one of those moments I dreaded, being peppered with uncomfortable questions about Dermot.

I went around to the back of Dermot's wheelchair and began to set up Dermot's feeding pump.

"Do you want to see how Dermot eats?"
"Yeah."
"He has a button connected in his tummy and I hook this tube up to it, then the food goes right into his tummy."
Why can't he eat regular?"
"When he was little he used to eat from his mouth, but then he started choking on his food a lot and that made him really sick. He used to have to go to the hospital a lot"
"Oh, (long pause, I could almost see the wheels turning in his head) that's not good."
"Nope, it isn't."

As the party continued, this boy stayed close to Dermot and I. He asked questions as they popped up and I tried to answer them the way I'd answered them with other curious children. While the other boys were coming out of the gym to sit down for pizza I heard another question, but before I could answer it, another friend of Owen's already had. Then another boy told him something about Dermot.

The Q & A sessions I have about Dermot are difficult for me sometimes, but as I watched the other two boys answering for me, I realized. These moments are important. Every question needs to be answered, every "why?" every "how come?" needs to be answered. Because I might not be there the next time someone asks, but hopefully the other little boys will be and they can handle the new guy...