Thursday, February 10, 2011

Paradoxes, Part 1 (Nathan Wagner)

Nathan Wagner has filled in for me on several occasions and always has great things to say in a thought provoking style. Nathan is an English teacher and coaches with me at Westbury Christian School. Pictured with Nathan is his wonderful, new bride, Vicki. Tonight's entry is the first of two parts- the other will run tomorrow. I greatly appreciate Nathan's donations!

I believe in paradoxes. Paradoxes are incredible blips in the space-time continuum. Two things or ideas that would never relate to each--yet in some twisted way become inseparable through their hidden meaning and secret truth. My life philosophy could be summed up in two seemingly contradictory words: Ugly/Beautiful. Ugly/Beautiful is all around us--kinda like Love Actually. When a forest fire ravages a sylvan paradise, all that remains is death, destruction, charred reminders of mighty giants, and a blanket of ash. Itʼs ugly. When a leader corrupted by power, pride and greed decides to exterminate a group simply because their noses are shaped differently or their skin has a different hue, the human potential for evil is revealed to be beyond measure: itʼs ugly. When hateful words or labels are thrown about, when pain is caused, my spirit is crushed and what remains is ugly. But what happens next is beautiful--the seeds of life are planted and things re-grow and flourish again. When the most genocide is committed, there are those who arise to sacrifice themselves for justice. Just when the stories of evil make life seem pointless, weʼre inspired by the vastness and potential of the human spirit. Itʼs beautiful.

The summer after I graduated from college, I worked at a camp for people with disabilities. My term was called “Adult Friends” for all the people over the age of 18 to give their parents--yes, parents--a break from taking care of them. The night before the campers arrived, I was terrified at the unknown. What would they be like? What disabilities would they have? What if I have to take them to the bathroom? What if we canʼt communicate? I didnʼt sleep, to be honest, I probably cried. All the next morning, my anxiety grew as we lined up, and I waited for my camper to arrive. It would be up to me to provide them with the “best week of their life.” I went in to the week thinking that I had nothing to learn and everything to pass on. I learned that Iʼm an fool, and in the process discovered my life philosophy.

My greatest fear about this camp was that I would discover that Iʼm prejudiced against people with disabilities. I was afraid my face would twist into a mask of disgust or pity when I made eye contact with one of the campers. I was afraid I would be paralyzed by my ignorance and inexperience. All those fears and anxieties were washed away the
moment our eyes met--and for the first time in my life, I got “it.” I went through the ugliest, most humbling experiences of my life that week. I wish I could tell you all those stories; I wish I could remember all the stories. I helped a man use the bathroom, I helped someone ten years older than me shower. I brushed teeth and shaved the beards of men. And I made eye contact while I did it. And we talked. And everything was normal. They had no shame, they didnʼt let a disability ruin their lives. And for the first time, I realized I was the one who should be envious of them.

If you would like to contact Nathan about his post, his e-mail is:

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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