10 Things I am Tired of Hearing

The list below is comprised of one-liners able-bodied people say to me daily. Frankly, I am tired of them, not because they are insensitive, but because you people have zero creativity.

  1. Asking me, “How fast does that thing go?”
  2. Upon seeing my scooter, “I need one of those!”
  3. Seeing me with a soda or water in my hand, “Hey, don’t drink and drive!”
  4. Asking, “Do you have a license for that thing?!”
  5. Walking up to me and patting my shoulder, “You are just being lazy, huh?”
  6. Looking at my scooter like it’s a piece of meat, “How much did that run you? Bet insurance paid for it right?”
  7. Walking up next to me, “Hey wanna race?”
  8. Pointing to their broken/injured extremity “Look, I am crippled too!”
  9. Running their hand over the front of my scooter “Wow she sure is a beauty! That is the Cadillac of scooters!”
  10. Leaning on my scooter like a wall or empty chair while it is in use. No words necessary

Since most of you are thinking, “Oh wow! I am sorry, how could they ever say these things?!” Chances are you have thought or said them yourself. So here are my snarky retorts so we don’t have to discuss it any further.

  1. “Fast enough to really hurt when I run over your toes”
  2. “Save your money, weirdo strangers will point at you and tell you they need one.
  3. “I am sorry I am too drunk to understand gibberish”
  4. “Yes and I got it from your mother”
  5. “I am sorry I missed what you said, I was napping on this extremely expensive medical device created for individuals with disabilities”
  6. “If you have to ask you cannot afford it. Trust me. And no insurance didn’t cover it, but I do accept charitable donations”
  7. “Sure! I love competition, better yet I like whooping wimps. Also I play dirty.”
  8. “Oh wow! Have you received your Oscar yet for impersonating someone with a disability? I hear it’s the quickest way to win actor/actress of the year”
  9. “It’s the Ferrari, Don’t get it twisted.”
  10. Next time this happens I will be abruptly moving the scooter out-of-the-way, and hoping you put a lot of weight into where you were once standing.

And just for good measure, do not forget to rub our shoulders and tell us that we have inspired you in some way even though we have never met. We love that.

Sarcasm is my love language by the way. Until next time lovely readers.

Much Love

BGTF

 

 

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On Disability and Inclusion in the Church

What follows is an edited transcript from a short session I ran at the recent “TASH conference” in Nashville:

As I said at the beginning of this panel, my name is Matt Curcio. The capital letter “C” church has been a part of my life since I was about eleven years old. I have worked in churches, volunteered with ministries, gone to seminary and surrounded myself with Christian fellowship.

While I have been active in many different churches over the years, I have more often than not felt like I was on the outside looking in. But then again y’all are aware that there are still many obstacles and barriers to inclusion, which is why we are gathered here today.

One of the questions I pondered when writing this all down is, what exactly would it look like to be meaningfully included in a faith community?

I want to start with what it does not look like. It doesn’t look like people avoiding eye contact. It doesn’t look like being forgotten about or minimized to just the state of my physical body.

Not being meaningfully included is like the scene in Mark 2. Many of you here know the story of the paralyzed man who was lowered through a roof to meet Jesus.

Something I didn’t realize until recently is that it wasn’t steps blocking the man from meeting Jesus and being a part of something world changing. In fact, scripture clearly states it was a crowd blocking him. A crowd of people, unaware and uninterested blocking this man from a potential that was unimaginable.

For me to feel accepted and welcomed and desired is when a few of those people in that crowd become a community. They stop standing in the way and work with me to get into that house to see what all the commotion is about.

To be meaningfully included means ultimately for others to see my potential when I only see my brokenness. It is to have my name asked and to have my story heard. To be meaningfully included is to be treated like a human.

While for me there are still many instances where stairs are a major obstacle to me being meaningfully included, to me the complacent and disinterested attitudes are the biggest barriers.

It is a rare occasion wherein programs, lessons and buildings are planned with disabilities in mind. Stages are even more rarely designed with the thought that someone with a disability would ever lead or speak on it.

In fact even when I was ministering to students, it was an afterthought to me! I’d plan the lesson, write the illustration and map out the activity just to realize I didn’t even take into consideration my own limitations. How backwards is that? I don’t think that is what Paul meant by being everything to everyone.

But, its not all bad, because if there wasn’t hope I probably wouldn’t be up here speaking. I have been meaningfully included. One instance was so powerful it is still shaking up my life even though it occurred over two years ago

I was working at a church in San Antonio doing full time college ministry. I knew my wheelhouse. College kids were easy. They liked video games, coffee and long talks about Jesus. No problem, I excel at all those things. But there was a Youth Director at this church that became a fast friend. We’d grill and watch every sport under the sun. It wasn’t long, maybe a few weeks after my arrival that he began inviting me to come spend time with him and the middle schoolers.

I was sick to my stomach when he first invited me. I smiled and in my most gracious voice declined. On the inside I was screaming “Dude are you out of your mind? Me, with a bunch of wild middle schoolers, running around being hyper and active and fun? You DO realize I use a scooter right? I don’t play sports, I can’t do this, I can’t do that. This is a disaster waiting to happen.”

The Youth Director then proceeded to invite me every single week for the next month. He promised food and fellowship. Finally after a month of invitations I caved in to his persistence. Nerves a wreck, I showed up and ate hot dogs and talked about Maundy Thursday with ten eighth grade boys.

I thought I would just have to make it through those two hours and then never have to hear his offer again once I explained how I’m not a fit to work with youth.

If y’all could have seen his smug grin when he watched me fall in love with working with those kids. Two years later I’m obviously no longer at that church, but I still get weekly texts from the many high school and middle schoolers. I had no idea that potential was in me.

I had no idea that there was a gifting and strength to my story that could connect to kids that I had grown up unable to connect with.

Side note: Kids, no matter the age, love sitting in rollie chairs and holding onto the back of scooters like a train. Extra side note: get a parent’s permission and have the kids sign a waiver before you do something like that.

But a faith community saw it in me when I didn’t see it. And in this scenario once I got inside the house and saw what the crowd was staring at, it changed my world.

What I want to leave you with today is just a few pieces of advice:

  1. Invitation is at the heart of faith communities, do not be afraid to invite those with disabilities to serve, and to share their strengths. Which of course means you need to invite them into your life so that you may get to see their potential yourself.
  2. This is off topic, but I feel like it needs to be shared. Disability is draining. It consumes energy, health and finances, goodness is it expensive to be disabled. I will be the first to say that I do not want to be seen as a charity case, but those I trust, who know me authentically and intimately and not just as someone to be served. I am grateful to share my struggles and needs with them. It is not easy to support and invest in someone with a disability. But the best things in life are never easy. Get to know people’s needs, but first get to know them.
  3. Finally, become a community. Lay down the simplicity of being a crowd. Make your plans with an array of abilities in mind. If you work with youth, you already know not EVERY kid likes dodgeball. If you are preaching, hopefully it’s not news to you that it doesn’t take having a disability or learning difference to lose focus on what is being said. Every obstacle has an accommodation. And

Maybe accommodations shouldn’t be an overwhelming word, maybe it shouldn’t be such a dirty word.

But an opportunity to let your creativity run wild, to try something new (I know new can be scary), but what if by accommodating for a few you give way to something more potent, and more world changing than ever before?
Thank you.

Much Love

BGTF

 

Announcement!


Dear Friends,

My life has taken a lot of interesting twists and turns over the years and I was hoping to share with you about my latest adventure. I am now living in Nashville, TN pursuing what I consider one of my greatest life callings. I was just thirteen years old when I opened scripture and read a verse in Proverbs that I have never been able to shake. The essence of the verse is basically: Be a voice to the voiceless. I recall reading this and feeling a metaphorical and literal rush of life and breath fill my lungs.

I knew then, as I still do today, that my desire and what I refer to as my calling is to speak up for those who are often forgotten and ignored in this world. Who though? Who are the voiceless? For me, in that moment I recognized my own muteness in culture and in the Church because of my disability.

The last twelve years have only fortified this calling. I have traveled from New Jersey to Philadelphia to Colorado to Texas and now to Nashville gaining experience and understanding how I fit into this great tapestry of life. Through some clearly God-ordained connections and, honestly, miracles I now find myself in the middle of one of my greatest dreams becoming realized.

With the help of some creative friends and family I have begun a non-profit disability advocacy group called Break The Roof. The name is based off of the story found in Mark 2. Break The Roof’s mission statement is clear:

To create a culture in and out of the Church that is accessible and inclusive to people of all abilities.

Thanks to the partnership of The After Sunday Project, inc. Break The Roof is already recognized as a 501c3 non-profit program. We will be recognized as a program of The After Sunday Project, inc. until we can raise enough funds to apply for our own non-profit status. Until that time, we will continue to work on our large agenda of projects and programs that are already in production.

We fully expect our reach to become national, but I personally hope to spend considerable time working with the communities that have helped to make me who I am today. I am so incredibly excited about all that God is doing through Break The Roof, already! I am even more excited to extend to you the opportunity to partner with us at the ground level and watch what is built in the coming weeks, months and years.

Would you prayerfully consider partnering with Break The Roof by making a MONTHLY or ONE-TIME donation of $20, $40 or any other amount? Every gift will make a difference.

If so, hop over to my contact page and reach out on how you would like to partner. Or head over to The After Sunday Project: Donate and include in the “special instructions” that your donation is for Break The Roof.

I am so excited to share with you what has been put on my heart and the good work Break The Roof will be doing!

Sincerely,

Matt Curcio

Founder Break The Roof

30 Days of Writing: Day Ten

Day 10.

Well it is late at night but I am publishing something none the less. So I am going to post an excerpt from a short fiction I worked pretty hard on. All rights reserved, blah blah blah. I hope you enjoy it! Maybe it will peak your interest enough to want to read the rest. If that is true comment on the post! The whole piece is entitled “We Are All Dust”

 

 

“Hey kid, wanna play four square with us til our moms get here?”

The voice of the squeaky 2nd grader distracted me from my wobbling knees for a brief moment. “No thanks.” I thought a simple no would have been enough to end the conversation.

“Come on! Don’t be such a wussy!” His whining made it clear that they needed a fourth player and I was the only other student around. I have these moments sometimes where I believe my fantasies can become reality. These moments where I truly believe that when I step away from the wall I am leaning on I will feel a surge of strength. These short-lived moments of confusion are normally dashed away by reality. I stepped away from the wall and both of my legs buckled.

I wonder sometimes what others think when they see me fall. It doesn’t look anything like what happens when a somebody falls. When a something falls, it is without grace or stability. It is similar to a limp loaf of bread smacking the pavement. A something flops. A something doesn’t cry, but a something bleeds. And this time I bled a lot. At least it seemed more than usual as I sat back and pulled my knees in close to my chest. I watched as the thick syrupy red leaked out and soaked my white rolled down socks. The kid who asked me to play had his ride arrive moments later. I overheard his mother asking her son if that older boy was okay. I saw her son shrug and I watched them both drive away. I didn’t want their help anyway. A something doesn’t need other people to help. That is reserved for a somebody.

Eventually, my mother arrived and helped me into her car. By then my shins were caked with blood and my tears were dried up. My mother never has words to say to me in times like these. I wondered more than once if she wished she didn’t have a something. Still she tended to my bumps and bruises, the ones she could see, and I was grateful. We sat and had dinner together, she made sure I did my homework, and she excused me from the table to go to bed early. She knew I was extra tired from the day and I knew I wanted to be alone. She prayed with me, she thanked God for me, kissed my forehead and walked out leaving me to lie under my blankets staring at the wall.

I waited until I could hear the TV playing from down the hall and sat up in bed. My knees were still pink and sore as I knelt on my bed to reach under and grab my flashlight. I walked over to my desk and grabbed a pencil and my journal hidden away in the back of my top drawer. I crawled back under my covers with the flashlight in my mouth and my two hands struggling to scribble and hold open my journal at the same time.

Dear God,

            I hate this. I hate you.

            Mom says you used to help people all the time.

            Why won’t you help me?

The tip of my pencil point broke and I threw my journal on the floor in frustration. I pulled my blanket over my head and allowed a few stray salty drops to fall onto my pillow. I wanted so badly for my life to just be one long bad dream. A nightmare that I would eventually wake up from. I squeezed my eyelids tightly until my muscles’ exhaustion overtook my emotions and I fell heavy into sleep.

 

BGTF