If we put ourselves in another’s shoes, we can learn a lot. My friend, Hannah speaks volumes though her disability prevents her from saying much.
I have experienced her wrath. Once Hannah’s sunny disposition turned stormy within minutes. With arms crossed, she stomped around, scowling at me. She waved her arms at her mother indicating she wanted to leave now, but her mother explained that she wasn’t ready to leave yet. Hannah, who had quietly been working on a coloring project while her siblings were busy with a piano lesson, no longer was interested in anything but leaving. There was no question that I had disrupted a special time with her mom.
Trapped is how I imagine my friend Hannah feels sometimes. At birth, a mistake deprived her of oxygen. Now in her twenties, Hannah likes routine. I like routine. I understand. She anticipates how her day will go so it upsets her when something or someone changes it. I get that too.
Common ground: stress over disrupted plans
Hannah and I have more in common than she realizes.
Familiar and predictable are comfortable. You know what to expect. We can’t rely on that though. Life does change and is unpredictable. Out-of-our-control events happen often. Every day even.
I am not a big fan of my plans getting disrupted. I’m not a very spontaneous individual. I like my schedule and my planner. In the latter, I write in pencil because meetings and plans change. In my stubborn mind though, it may as well be written in pen. I. have. a. plan. Don’t we all?
I don’t have any excuse for my inner tantrums or rising blood pressure from the stress induced when plans change abruptly. I could just go with the flow instead of being so stubborn.
Others determine much of her schedule though. When that schedule is disrupted, she may feel out of sorts. After all, schedule changes may leave me feeling frazzled.
Common ground: frustration when others don’t understand us
Hannah, however, doesn’t communicate much verbally. When we don’t understand, I believe she gets frustrated. I get frustrated when people don’t understand me. How much more frustrating must it be to understand what others are saying, but not be able to get the words out to explain your own thoughts? There is very little that she controls.
I have noticed if her mom and I are visiting and neglect to include her in the conversation by addressing her or making eye contact, Hannah gets angry. I wonder if she feels like a puzzle piece that looks like it should fit in a spot, but no matter how you try to press it in, it doesn’t belong there. Like each of us, I believe she wants to belong. I have sat in situations where it looks like I should belong, but I feel so very out of place, neglected, and invisible. I wonder if she feels that way sometimes and her sadness comes out in a tantrum. In her quiet ways, a wild tantrum gets everyone’s attention, that’s for sure.
I also understand how frustrating it is to try to explain something to someone who doesn’t comprehend me.
Other things she has taught me
Hannah also teaches me by her example. She has shown me pure joy and living in the moment. She knows we need to be honest about our feelings.
Rather than act out, I will often stuff my frustration or anger. It comes out later in an angry outburst or tears. It’s healthier to be honest and up front about how we feel about a situation.
I don’t know what Hannah is thinking. This is all speculation as I try to put myself in her shoes.
I do know that each person is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). I love Hannah. She’s a beautiful young lady who makes me laugh. She’s quick to give a hug. She is empathetic. When she gets upset, I want to help, though sometimes I don’t know how.
Lessons to remember
We can all remember to treat everyone as we want to be treated. During a rough moment, grace and patience can go a long way. Love covers a lot. We all want to be loved, understood, and respected.
When feeling misunderstood, trapped, or left out, it is encouraging to know that others have been there and will hold out a hand to lift us up.
Sanctity of Life Day is coming soon. May we remember all people have worth! All life is precious—at every stage, the preborn to the aged and everyone in between.