Category Archives: Disability

Stop saying this when friends are in crisis…

Another random Facebook post. A friend asking for vague help, their circumstances not allowing them to share publicly whats really happening, but nevertheless, they fling a desperate cry out into the void.

Stop saying “How Can I help” say this instead.

A diagnosis. A crushing blow. A job loss.

Condolences and “prayers” come flooding in. Along this flood of well wishers, perhaps this phrase is more used than any other. And you need to stop using it.

“Let us know if there is anything we can do to help.”

Listen, when you are in crisis, and life is upside down, you don’t know what you need. You are simply trying to breathe. Until the moment of crisis passes, your body just goes into instinctual survival mode.

A number of years ago, my wife came down with an attack of pancreatitis. The diagnosis was missed two days prior in Dar es Salaam, and upon arrival in Kenya, we went to the emergency room. She was hospitalized.

At that moment, well wishes and prayers for her healing were all good. But I had an 18 year old intern from the states, a new born and a 4 year old. But I couldn’t think straight enough to formulate what I needed from the community around me.

When friends and loved ones are in crisis, stop saying “let me know.” You already know.When the ship is sinking, having crew members ask “how can I help” doesn’t help. In crisis, the captain needs crew members who “See a need, fill a need”

What do all humans require?

  1. Food prep. While someone is in crisis, they and their family still need to eat.
    1. Suggestion: Ask instead: What’s your favorite meal, favorite restaurant? What do the kids like to eat? From gift cards to home cooked meals, these are always needed!

      Listen, when you are in crisis, and life is upside down, you don’t know what you need.

  2. Childcare: If the friend is in crisis, the whole family is affected and if multiple children are involved, they get a huge emotional hit. My older son was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when my youngest was 2 months old. The youngest struggles with deep anxiety. Could it be that the emotional trauma during his first months of life is connected? We don’t know.
  3. Companionship: At this level, you need to have more than a surface relationship. But there are times when you simply need to get in your car, get on the bus, get on a plane and go be.

Living in Tanzania, funerals were more part of my life. One beautiful lesson I learned from Tanzanian culture was that when someone dies, you don’t’ wait. You don’t ask. You GO. And you sit. That’s it. You offer small words if the grieving family needs. But generally you just sit. Give the gift of presence. Loneliness is tough.

  1. Bills. This is a bigger step, but very few people that I know are going to ask for help with their bills until they are in major crisis. So navigate this one with tact, but there are bills that you can take care of without having the ackward conversation. Gas in the car. Oil Changes. Is school upcoming? New shoes and clothes for the kids. New backpacks and school supplies.
  2. Lawncare and carcare. Taking care of the yard, the weeds, the snow blowing (for those in northern countries), the little things.
  3. Prayer. Everything throws the word around. But prayer is more than wishful thinking. It is more than desiring good, or “thoughts.” If you believe, then Prayer is engagement with the Divine Creator of the Universe who actually cares. Your prayer then should be written out, communicated clearly. Share scriptures (not the generic Jeremiah 31, but pray Psalms and great prayers of the ages for your loved ones. And then communicate that to them.

“Let me know what we can do” put the onus on the person already dealing ith too much. How about if we tried “let me do this for you…”

What are some other ideas? What do you do in your culture? Share you thoughts and feedback on our Facebook page..

What I wish Christians understood about depression

“Maybe the World would just be better off without me.”

As I sat and heard the sentiment, my heart broke. Of course, this wasn’t the first breaking. Nor would it be the last. My friend was expressing the deepest reality of a soul tortured and unable to break free.

Immediately, I tried to call out the lie. “This isn’t truth. This is the depression speaking.”

It’s the hideous beast that grows and wanes but never seems to go away.

But for Christians, well, depression is one of those that we think they need to “get over it,” “snap out of it,” “move on,” “let it go.”

Numbers do lie. But they also tell a story. According to various sources, between 15 and 16 million people in the United States, and 121 million around the world suffer some sort of major depressive episode every year. During COVID, that number has exploded.

My son has a form of muscular dystrophy called Duchene’s Muscular Dystrophy. It is a progressive, deteriorative genetic condition. We are 7 years into our journey. The MDA community is organized and beautiful. The grace shown these kids, mostly boys, is incredible. And fortunately for us and him, my son’s beautiful spirit has never slowed down even as the disease has taken his ability of walk, and his ability to care for his basic needs.

Only a few fools have dared to suggest “if these boys would only try harder…” No one says that, because these boys try hard. My son tries to dress himself. He’s figured out how to pull up his pants by scooting back and forth on his seat. He no longer uses the toilet but a urinal because it gives him some privacy and independence.

The genetic factors are clear. Sure I’ve had people suggest that if I had more faith, my son would be healed. Only one person has dared to actually tell me that to my faith. I’ve developed a standard response. “Feel free to heal Joshua since you have more faith than me.”

What does this have to do with depression?

Sick people can not usually “snap out of it.” Cancer, DMD, all the way to the common cold, no one expects these to go away just with will power. Depression strikes the spiritual and the unspiritual. The wealthy and the poor. The highly educated and the unluckily poorly educated. Depression does seem to be more prevalent in certain ethnic communities. Hopelessness is difficult to swallow year after year.

But for Christians, well, depression is one of those that we think they need to “get over it,” “snap out of it,” “move on,” “let it go.”

This is akin to telling a person with a broken leg to snap out of it, heal yourself, and “just walk it off.”

No one who is depressed wants to be. But for those with chronic depression, the spiral is a self defeating cycle into extreme isolation. They want more friends, but can’t bring themselves to reach out. They want to respond to invitations but don’t have the energy. They want to be engaged, to make friends, to be… but wanting is rarely enough.

What Dreams May Come- staring Robin Williams

One of the stupidest movies of all time was “what dreams may come.” (My opinion only, because of the reincarnational themes introduced. And in a very sad way, strangely prescient, since the main actor, Robin Williams, ended up taking his own life and he lost his battle with depression.) The lead character, played by Williams, must go down to hell, a place of colorless depression where his wife Ann is trapped because she committed suicide.

Here’s my take away. Chris goes down into the hell, which for Ann is a lifeless void. When he can’t bring her out, he decides to stay with her. The redemptive analogy is there, though marred by dubious ending.

As Christians who use Christ as our example, should we not descend down into the private hell of the broken around us, even it’s the depressed? If the light in us is truly strong, then shouldn’t that light shine in the darkness where, forgive the mixing of metaphors, a broken reed is almost broken? Even if there is no solution, today, tomorrow or next year?

Don’t give up!

Would be the cry of the soul of the depressed

Don’t believe me!

Would be the hope of the depressed pushing you away with their word. 

Love me!

Would the lonely depressed insecure depressed cry

Don’t leave me!

Would be the honest craving of the soul of the depressed

So to the Christian who believes that depression is a spiritual issue, I would agree with you.

And to the one who believes it’s a chemical issue, I would agree with you.

And to those who believe it’s an emotional issue, I would agree with you.

But after 20 years of this journey, what I can tell you is the solution is sometimes a drug (anti-depressants help only 60% of the clients). Sometimes a counselor. Sometimes a supernatural visitation. Sometimes more sunlight and exercise. Often a combination of all of these.

And sometimes, the solution is not a quick fix, but a fellow believer who agrees that they will walk and love and live with a broken soul until such a time as God chooses to bring deliverance. Today, tomorrow, 20 years from now, or eternity.

Ask yourself- if a friend or family member battled cancer for years, how would you act towards them? How about depression?

Because our depressed loved ones, friends and family, are worth it.

3 ways to help your friends who have a disabled child.

My son has DMD. He’s in a wheelchair. He’s 12. He can’t run, jump, or walk. He used to be able to. But DMD has taken that away.

joshua-porter

His favorite class in school this year is English. He loves his teacher. She’s a superstar.
His second favorite class? P.E.
That’s right. The one class where he can’t do what the other kids do. The one class that could remind him of his disability.

And the one class that’s social. Where instead of starting at a blackboard, he can engage with others. He has made more friends in PE than in any other class. In PE, the other kids have figured out ways to include him in their activities.

I was thinking about that when my wife and I were talking about some of our experiences growing up, how adults other than our parents allowed us to participate in different events. My sister got to go to Austria with friends. I’ve never been. My cousin took my brother to see his first movie.

I sat down today and considered some of the families who have disabled kids. Many of my friends have asked “how can we help?” The honest answer is most families feel guilty asking for helping constantly, so I’ll give you some ideas. Please share yours as well.

1. Take the other kids and do things.

I know it sounds counter intuitive, but sometimes the siblings of disabled kids just aren’t able to participate as much in activities because the parents simply can’t “throw the kids in the car” and run around. Camping, hiking, fishing, bike rides, one way that you can help a family who has a disabled child is including their other kids in your activities. We make every effort to give our kids a normal childhood, but doctors visits, medical accessories, and the million other things that go along with have a wheelchair bound child mean that our 2 other kids don’t get to do some things that their peers get to do. Take them along.

2. Borrow their van.

Being in a wheelchair means transportation is an issue. But if you want to include a disabled child, just ask to borrow the wheelchair accessible vehicle. Those vehicles have insurance just like any other. Take the kid to the movies, to ball games, anywhere you might go that a wheelchair could go but getting there is the barrier.

3. Include.

Lots of people at family reunions just sit around talking. Kids with disabilities can still talk, can still experience, can still laugh. They may not be able to play baseball, but they can sit with grandma and talk during the game. Ask Joshua about super heroes and just sit back and enjoy the ride. So invite and include them in as many activities as possible. Don’t worry about participating completely.

4. Don’t pity.

The last thing a child with a disability needs is pity. Give them the dignity of respect as a human being. Joshua is tiny. Not even 4 feet tall. But his mind is the mind of a 12 year old, not the mind of a 6 year old where his body is stuck.

My son’s favorite class is because someone thinks he’s awesome. His second favorite is because he gets to be with other kids. So consider including a disable child, or his siblings, in your activities this summer.

Please share this, and share your ideas as well. We need to learn from each other.

3 things my son lost with his disability

Recently, our son began needing a wheelchair. It’s a journey thousands face.

In this process, we’ve received lots of love and support from friends and family. Yet at the end of the day, we often feel like people don’t know what to do with Joshua because of his disability. Here are three things we’ve noticed that he has lost. Continue reading 3 things my son lost with his disability