This is an open letter I sent to my oldest grandson, who told his mother he was very sad that his Mamaw (grandmother) was sick and had to use a wheelchair.
Your mama tells me that you are sad that your grandma is sick. You don’t understand why God would let her be stuck in a wheelchair. You think Mamaw must be very unhappy, and that makes you unhappy.
I want to let you know several things. First, I am not unhappy. I know that God did not put me in this wheelchair. And my wheelchair is not some kind of punishment; it is a blessing. If I did not have my wheelchair, I could not visit you. My wheelchair allows me to go out into the world and be with other people. There are still some places I can’t go, but I am grateful for the freedom my wheels give me.
I’m also grateful for the conversations my wheelchair open up, especially with children. I am glad when they are curious about my chair, and ask how it works. I don’t even mind if they ask why I use it. It gives me a chance to talk about my conditions. I show them how my chair works, and tell them how grateful I am that I can still get around in the world, and sometimes I give them rides! Life is very good.
I have learned that a happy life is not something that is given to us, but something that we make. We build our own prisons, just as we create our own freedom. I have met people who have everything in the world they could possibly want, and are still very unhappy because their hearts are empty. I have met people who have very little, and are very happy because their hearts are full. And the thing that fills their hearts is God’s love. When you have that, you have everything.
Because God loves me, and sent His son into the world, I am filled with that Spirit of love. I am blessed. While I don’t have the physical abilities I once had, I still have the ability to love, and to share that love with others through teaching and writing and creating objects to help others. This is my work. I believe that if we open our hearts and minds to the love that God has placed within us, and find the work that is a natural outgrowth of that love, we can lead the life that God has planned for us.
Some of us may have regular employment in the “real” world, some of us may be volunteers. Some of us might call on the sick or shut-ins, or send cards and make phone calls. Some of us are advocates, paid or unpaid, for the disabled or the homeless or the disenfranchised. Some of us are sales people, or office workers, or teachers, or public servants. We can all do our work to the best of our ability, in line with God’s purpose for all the world, no matter what shape we’re in.
“I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13
And so, dear Bradley, I hope you will rejoice with me that I am alive, and happy, and I know that God is with me and cares for me. God is good all the time; all the time God is good. Amen.
I wish you all, dear friends, a blessed Thanksgiving day. Please know I count you all among my blessings. I am grateful for your continuing love, support and understanding.
Peace be with you.