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

 

Convicted At Last

I am going to write about some subject matter in this post that I normally choose not to for various reasons, but here we go. It is 1:30 AM and I can’t keep from sharing.

So I have struggled these past few months with some major apathy in my life and my faith. I am sharing this because in this past week I have found a renewed sense of conviction. Now when I say conviction many hear guilt. That is not what I am saying though.

From a Christian aspect conviction is more like a challenge from the Holy Spirit. Being challenged to be better than what you have allowed yourself to be. So there are different areas in my life that I have felt convicted in lately, but one area is what I would like to share about tonight with my readers.

So in the ending verses of Proverbs God calls for His followers to do many things, but one line has always stood out to me. This line simply calls servants of God to be a voice to the voiceless.

Now there are many individuals in this world who are voiceless and I would be betraying my experience and my abilities if I presented myself as someone who can speak for everyone with a marginalized voice. I will love unconditionally all of these people but my ability to voice their experiences and their needs is beyond myself.

But there is a people group that I have always applied this verse in Proverbs to.

In Jon Foreman’s song “Instead of a Show” He states one single line that, to me, parallels this verse in Proverbs and always sends chills up my spine. He States: “Stand up for those who cannot stand at all”

So here I am in my bed at 1:30 in the morning and convicted. Convicted about a call I have always had and my fears in pursuing it.

For those who know me that read my blog you are aware that I was born with a Physical Disability called Muscular Dystrophy. If you want to know more about that I would be happy to share, but as for right now it is more important that you understand my experience instead of the scientific mumbo-jumbo.

In light of recent events in my life my disability has been taking over my mind and my life in ways that I have never expected. It has been hard. Really very hard of late.

To illustrate: I need a job for the summer. Not to just keep myself busy but to pay bills that I cannot afford to cover.

Imagine with me for a second an illustration of my life. Imagine searching for Part-time or full-time jobs online and having to immediately rule our 75% of the results because you are physically unable to perform the role.

So now you have a remaining 25% and from that you must rule out another 30-50% of the remaining jobs because their facilities are inaccessible. You may be a perfect fit for the position, but you are unable to even get to the position because it is on the third floor of a building without and elevators or ramps. Your options are limited and you have not even considered the fact yet that the remaining possibilities may hold a prejudice towards you and your disability. (Trust me that’s a real possibility)

Would you be frustrated? Cause I sure the hell am.

But this is reality for me. This is circumstance. This is life. I push on in spite of this.

My nephew is old enough to ask me questions now that are getting tough to answer. And he asked me something last night that in part crushed me and scared the shit out of me.

He asked me: “Uncle Matt, why do you walk different from everyone else?”

Simple and innocent. My nephew loves me and would never want to hurt me even in his curiosity. But he cannot help himself from recognizing the difference between me and the rest of society.

After taking some time to pray and think  I embarked down a long road of explaining my disease to my nephew and encouraging him to care for those with disabilities that he meets throughout his life.

So here is where this all comes together. My nephew is bright. Very bright and he may not have totally understood or grasped everything I said and told him but he loves me enough to show me that he cares.

I have had it pressing on my heart for a very long time to Stand up for those who cannot stand. To be the voice to the voiceless.

To be honest most who read this will not even know what Muscular Dystrophy is and I am assuming you are not a child in grade school. Now do not take that as an offense from me. That is not what I intend. What I intend is to be someone willing to make a stand and be a voice for those who are overlooked and marginalized.

I have been especially blessed in my life by family and friends who have encouraged and challenged me beyond belief, but not all are as lucky to have a support system as such.

My desire to “do something” about this passion has little to do with my disability and finding retribution for the wrongs done to me over the years. My desire has all to do with loving those whom society has deemed less-lovable or even unlovable.

My desire stems from wanting for others to endure the challenges, the pains, the fears and the insecurities that I have lived through with a hand to hold and a shoulder to lean on.

Whether this will be through advocacy in schools, in writings or somewhere else I now am seeing more and more my need to be verbal and outspoken about what it means to live a life disabled.

Your prayers are appreciated. Your questions are encouraged. Your support is welcomed.

I ask you a question tonight. Is God convicting you? Are you running scared from a desire or passion that has been present in your life for years? If so, let’s talk.

As Always my dear readers,

Much Love

BGTF