You can listen to this week’s Devotional here
Author: Kevin Pettit
I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1 – 6 (NRSVUE)
A few weeks ago, I volunteered at a weekend “Creative Minds” camp sponsored by the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado which was held at a beautiful cabin on the slopes in Breckenridge and operated by the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC). At this camp, there were seven adult campers whose brain injuries considerably impacted their functional abilities – one ambulated permanently using a wheelchair and several campers had speech impediments that made it extremely difficult to understand what they were attempting to say. None of the campers could hold a job, and all but one could not live independently. The camper who was restricted to a wheelchair was there with his mother (and full-time caregiver); he could not feed or bathe himself. Although an adult with mature thoughts and wishes, his impairments limited this man’s functional abilities to something like those of a 9-month-old baby.
This camping weekend included cooking, hiking, field trips, poetry, painting, journaling, movement, karaoke, laughter, dancing, and socializing. Assisting the campers were seven able-bodied buddies who helped the campers to reach their goals and have a good time. In addition, the lodge was staffed by a registered nurse and experienced staff and interns. All in all, the ratio was 3:1; every camper had about three people who assisted them in having a very enjoyable time. It was great fun!
In the evening, after the camp had quieted down, I reflected on the campers and their needs while remembering when, for about a year, I lived with the same range of challenges following my own severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Initially, I thought about how reliant I was on others in the ways that they now are. Yet, upon deeper reflection, I realized how reliant we all are on our community in order to live. None of us grows all our food or raises all the animals we might eat. We are all reliant on public systems for our drinking water as well as processing of the waste water from our houses – almost none of which were built by the hands of their occupants.
None of us is really more reliant on others to live; many of us are simply able to function productively in a society which, overall, has been designed to meet our needs, whereas many survivors of TBIs have needs for which our society does not usually provide help or accommodation.
Camps like the one I attended (sponsored by BOEC) are infrequent and few in our first-world country which is a testament, not to the rarity of these injuries, but to the inflexibility and uncompassionate quality of our collective nature. Despite my rather negative thoughts about our lack of compassion and collective carelessness, I thoroughly enjoyed this camp experience. In seeing all the joy that our efforts created, I witnessed what I understand to be the Godly processes of peaceful enlivenment and the creation of deep joy. Indeed, are we all not blessed by our mere existence and doesn’t joy quite often come to us each undeservedly?
God, please help me to remember that all living things are your creation, that we humans are each a part of others, and that none of us is truly independent. Because we are one body, please help us to always remember to care for those parts of the body of humanity that are often forgotten. Amen