I spend a lot of time looking out my window. There’s not much more for me to do around here. I can see the neighbors come and go. I see kids spending their time on their bicycles and skateboards zooming up and down the street. We have a family that hits the surf every day at 2 PM, and people walking their dogs on Monday through Friday. Then there are dogs walking their people on Saturdays and dogs running unattended on Sundays. Many cars are getting filled with anxious families on their way to church with dad yelling at the kids to hurry up so they can not being late to worship God who knows nothing time in the Lord who is above time in space.
What’s frustrating to me is not what I can’t see; I feel I cannot be seen. Almost 3 years ago, when I had the stroke, I had no idea that I would get lost in the process. At first, it was a flurry of activity around my hospital beds. There were phone calls, cards, prayers, cookies, concerned old ladies who pinched my cheeks and tons of visitors. I got to be known as Pastor Perry in the hospital, and I had over 100 people come to these hospital doors for a month. The receptionist asked if I was a movie star. I replied no and told the lady, “I’ve just lived in this area for 30 years. I know a lot of people.”
But now the hype is gone, the phone doesn’t ring nearly as much. People called in the right when I post on Facebook or if I have a fall (which means I get a lot of attention at least twice a month!) If I ping someone, tell a story, someone is touched by a post about spirituality or something controversial and usually stirs up some discussion or if I just do something stupid, but other than that, not much more than church banter. Now that my church community has been cut off, even that will be difficult. I can deal with that. I know how to pick up the phone and call a friend. I’ve got some of the best friends in the world. Not a day goes by where I don’t talk to one of them, and I appreciate their love and support. I’m talking about when I say “I feel like I can’t be seen” is what I want to explain to you now.
Last week I was in Kaiser Hospital for a test. It has a very long parking lot which is difficult for me to maneuver, so we took our travel wheelchair, and Judy pushed me through. When we got up to the register, the attendant looked over her glasses which hung from her pearl necklace and looked directly at me, then at Judy, and said, “what is his Kaiser number?” I responded with my Kaiser number and then said “Hello!, excuse me, I’m here!” I want to stand up and scream and say I am not invisible! People in wheelchairs need to be noticed! Disabled people need to be treated with dignity! Do you not understand?
If we walk into a fast-food restaurant, they look at me and then look at my wife and say, what would he like to order? I want to stand up and yell; I am a person; I am an adult, ask me! It is so frustrating.
It’s just not spoken discrimination. It’s attitudes, it’s physical barriers. I pulled into work to find two of our three handicapped parking spots taken by staff members in the fall. The third spot was also taken by someone who is disabled, leaving me no place to park. It was actually not safe; the church was under construction at the time. I had to drive around, find the closest spot to the office store and then try to travail my way over a curb and dirt and rock to get to the door. Since the sidewalks are not finished yet, the curb was about a foot high. I do not have a good run with curbs at this point. And I did not win the round this time either. I lost my footing, wound up falling backward and hitting my head. Brown dirt and red blood don’t look good together. They formed to have a black substance that really isn’t very attractive, but you can use it to draw things on sidewalks if you wish. I laid there for a good seven or eight minutes before someone found me.
We, as humans, have had trouble following laws. It’s a good thing that Jesus came to abolish it! I pulled into my massage place to find two handicap spots also taken by customers of Little Caesar’s pizza. I got out of the car, shut the door, and proceeded to go tell the people off who parked in those spots. The blue bumper that stops you from going too far is there for you to see, but I had to step over it, which is dangerous when you only have one leg that works. I lost my footing again and fell. This time blood and asphalt mixed; the blood actually stands out this way. I needed someone to pick me up and lo and behold, the person that came was the person who parked in my spot. I was polite and said, sir, thank you for the help, but you know it’s illegal for you to park in that place. He goes “well, I have a handicap sticker”, to which I replied “they don’t make handicap stickers in California”. He jumped in his car quickly drove away.
There are people of all sizes and shapes in all conditions and health, there are people who are rich and poor, let’s try to even the playing field. Think about your brother, think about your sister, let’s think about one another in love as he loves us.