Fear is ...
Paralysing – a man I work with is confined to a wheelchair. As part of an education course he is doing, he went on an outing to a supermarket. He was paralysed with fear as he was afraid he would fall out of his chair going down a very mild slope. With support he conquered his fear and can’t wait to go shopping again,
Destructive – read Waleed Aly’s article in The Age as he describes how our collective fear is manifesting itself in the lives of others on Manus Island. How we have allowed those with power to prey on our fears and urge us towards a situation that we are no longer comfortable with. And if we are ok with it, then we really should begin to question some the ways we describe ourselves and the image we like to project to the wider international community.
Abusive – imagine a young man with little self esteem. He is limited by his experiences and does not know how to behave so that others are drawn to him. So he acts out and engages in behaviour that pulls people in, pushes them away, pulls them in again only to be injured on their way back out again. Imagine a woman with a hearing impairment. She has a limited social network and feels threatened when a close friend befriends another. Unable to adequately express her feelings, she expresses them through frustration leading to another’s physical harm.
Addressing Fear is …
Liberating – a mother spoke at our staff meeting this week of the fears she has for her son. The fears that she has had from the day she first knew he would navigate this world with a disability. She listed and described her fears. She then detailed how she refused to allow her fears to limit the choices of her son. She thanked us, those who work with him daily, for giving him the opportunity to work. For giving him the opportunity to continue to study. For giving him confidence. She encouraged us to continue to push her son to try new things and test what he can and can not achieve. She encouraged us to not let our fears and assumptions to limit his choices in the future. She expressed her hopes that his stay would be temporary as he developed the skills he required to step out into open employment.
I started working a year ago last week. The first time I toured the production floor, I felt the first stirrings of uncertainty. I didn’t truly believe that I would be able to work with people with disabilities. I didn’t believe that I would be able to befriend them. It never occurred to me that they would enrich my life with greater capacities for love, understanding, acceptance, empathy. It never occurred to me that I would find common ground with and enjoy the company of the people I would be surrounded by. How much joy I would find in this new world.
There were times that I considered allowing my doubts and my fears to overwhelm me as I did have the luxury of giving up. But I didn’t. I’d like to claim noble qualities pushed me through the hard times but that’s not the case.
Admitting I couldn’t do it was not an option as I have pride and am stubborn. I wanted to work and didn’t relish searching for another job opportunity nor having to convince one more person why I was the perfect fit for their company. Working ten minutes away from home is a gift that I will not easily relinquish.
My fears in life are not great big ones that loom over me and would make a Goliath tremble in fear. They are little bitty ones suited to my own quirks and insecurities. Others might say that they are easily conquered. I don’t think so. Each one seems an impressive boulder to pass.
However, each one I pass gives me the courage and resources (even if that resource is stubborn pride) to pass the next slightly larger boulder. The boulders I face as I approach 40 would seem to be mountains to the girl I was at 20 and, hopefully, will seem as pebbles to the woman I hope to be at 60. They stretch me, drag me out of my comforts and lead me to develop into a person with more depths and more strengths than I ever thought possible.
We need to encourage others to do the same as we lead by example. Encourage to move past their limitations and embrace their strengths. To support them through the process of addressing and overcoming their fears. Give them grace when they fail and take steps backwards and encourage them to get up and continue to move forward. Celebrate the small infinitesimal steps towards success.
We need to do this within our immediate sphere, our national sphere and encourage others to take into the global sphere. We need to strive to be greater than the limits our fears would like to hold us. To strive to be as great as we would like to think ourselves.