Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ho Ho Ho, or not?

It's that time of year again, where many of those who can afford it go out and buy a truckload of stuff that they or the recipients don't need, while those who can't afford it become more acutely aware of that fact.  Blessed by social networks, people come together to celebrate, though sometimes this is accompanied by intense planning because folk want things to be 'just right'.  This of course means that things are more likely go anything other than 'just right'.  This is called cosmic irony (where you achieve the opposite of what you intended) and is the essence of a modern Christmas for those who celebrate it.  Aah, Christmas. Aaaaaaaaarggghhhh, Christmas!

Spare a thought then, for the many people who don't have such social networks.  One of the most disabling conditions in our society is that of loneliness and isolation.  People living with disability are more likely to experience this than many, because of an often life-long experience of separation and marginalisation, within a society that over the past thousand years has forgotten that people living with disability have a natural and rightful place in community life as active citizens.

Feeling lonely really really sucks.  It is important for all of us to have options for company other than our own.  After all, having friendships is key to a truly rich life.

So, as I said, spare a thought.  In fact, don't just spare a thought, take an action.  Extend a welcome to someone in your neighbourhood who is alone (or in a congregated support service) and who may be lonely.  Do this not because its Christmas, but because it's what makes communities healthy and happy. We live for eachother.  This isn't about charity, or about befriending.  It's about genuine, freely given association.  You know, neighbourliness and friendship.

And to you who reads this blog and who feels lonely and isolated, I wish you strength and courage and hope, that you may discover actions in your own life that bring you in contact with new people who will discover the joy of knowing you.


  1. I take offense at your aside, Robbi (or in a congregated support service). For three and a half decades I have been trying to get inside the head of my son, who has a severe intellectual disability. What I have learned from him is that although he has access to any number of family and to family friends, it is his own friends, those people who have a disability similar to his, whose company he craves. I should know, because at least four times every day I am asked "how many more sleeps before I go out with my friends?". I have also learned that he enjoys being a creature of habit and he feels secure within his routine, while many of us would feel bored. He cannot speak very well for himself and that is why I try to represent his viewpoint. I came to this job with no preconceptions, but after living so long with my son, I feel the need to challenge the prevailing ideology within the disability industry that congregate equals bad and inclusion means only good. My son would dearly love to live with a group of his friends - he could think of nothing better. In fact, he discusses with me whom he would choose to have in his house (and he gets to around twenty people). This is straight from the horse's mouth and I think it bears consideration by people such as yourself, Robbi. My son will never have a family of his or a rewarding career so his social life assumes the prominent role in his life. I bristle then at the suggestion that he must be "included" in the community, which invariably means living alone or with one other. The bottom line here is that people like my son have their own community and it is disrespectful to suggest they don't. The hearing impaired community have a rich and highly organized social network which is well acknowledged. Why not the intellectually disabled community? I would also like to add that some of the loneliest people I know have been "devolved" and dumped "in the community" and left with the most minimum support - an example of social inclusion that isn't.

  2. Harriet, thanks for your comment, and no offence was intended. My point was not that someone in a congregated service will by definition be lonely, or that it is somewhow wrong for a person living with disability to have friends who also have a disability. My point was that we should not assume that vulnerable people who live in congregate arrangements will definitely not be lonely.