“None of us walks the path of life alone”—Sen. Robert Dole’s message to the disability community is what we all need right now

Curtis Ramsey-Lucas

March 19, 2020

The first week of March, I was making final edits and scheduling articles to begin publishing in The Christian Citizen the following week. Several stories focused on Lenten practices while a few others recognized the observance of Women’s History Month. I was also making plans to attend the American Association of People with Disabilities’ annual Leadership Awards Gala March 10 in Washington, D.C., where Sen. Robert Dole was to receive an award.

That was before the novel coronavirus outbreak took a deadly turn in King County, Washington when, in the span of just over a week, 10 people died. On March 4, we published “Charity amidst the chaos—when coronavirus comes to your neighborhood,” by Bryan Jackson who lives in Kirkland, Washington, location of the first fatality from COVID-19 in the United States.

We published 8 articles since including “Ministry in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak,” “Spiritual practices for such a time as this” and “5 practices to live by in this uncertain, wilderness time.” Our writers offered ideas for ensuring ministry continuity as churches shift to online forms of gathering, tips and practices for pastoral care, and steps to ensure people with disabilities can access prescription drugs during the current crisis.

We published a special issue of our Weekly e-newsletter including these stories and related content published elsewhere and updated our website with a featured series section that includes ministry guidelines from American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) and guidelines for faith and community leaders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We produced an episode of our Justice. Mercy. Faith. podcast with interviews with Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell and Bryan Jackson about how churches are responding to the outbreak.

Like many others, I am juggling working from home with children whose schools are closed including my oldest, back from his final semester of college, facing the prospect of no graduation ceremony in his future. My church, like so many others, has moved worship services and learning opportunities online and begun to plan for ministry and pastoral care absent personal proximity. My employer, ABHMS, has deployed all staff to home offices and suspended onsite meetings at the Leadership and Mission Building in King of Prussia, Pa.

The AAPD gala took place as planned though I did not attend. As in years past, emerging disability rights activists were recognized, and awards were given to corporate and political leaders. Dole received AAPD’s Lifetime Impact Award. From his first speech as a United States Senator in 1969 to his return to the Senate chamber in 2014 to support adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Dole has championed equal access and opportunity for people with disabilities. He also played a key role in passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation that became law 30 years ago this July.

“We all face challenges in life – some have a tougher road than others,” Dole wrote in a letter for the occasion. “But what sets us apart is how each one of us chooses to handle those challenges. Our resilience. I’ve faced a few bumps in the road throughout my life, but I’ve always tried to maintain a sense of optimism – looking ahead at brighter days to come.”

 

Dole received AAPD’s Lifetime Impact Award. From his first speech as a United States Senator in 1969 to his return to the Senate chamber in 2014 to support adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Dole has championed equal access and opportunity for people with disabilities. He also played a key role in passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation that became law 30 years ago this July.

Looking ahead, amid this pandemic, I appreciate Dole’s words. There will be bumps in the road. Our resilience—as individuals, communities and as a nation—will be tested. How will we respond? How will we choose to handle the challenges we face? Will we struggle to maintain a sense of optimism? Will we remain hopeful or give ourselves over to despair? As darkness gathers, will we manage to keep our eyes fixed on brighter days to come?

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote, “Let each of you look not to you own interests, but to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4). As we seek to slow the progress of this pandemic, physical or social distancing is one way we look to the interest of others. Not engaging in profiteering with respect to items in short supply is another.

Avoid panic buying; practice good personal hygiene; check on neighbors; call, text, write those who are homebound; support workers displaced from jobs as public health concerns force further restrictions and closures and our service economy slows; pray for doctors, nurses, and health care workers as they care for the sick and put themselves at risk doing so—these are small steps each one of us can take with potentially big effect on one family, one church, one community, one nation.

“None of us walks the path of life alone,” Dole wrote in closing. “We help each other along the way.” This truth has seldom been more apparent. May it guide us in the days to come.

Curtis Ramsey-Lucas is editor of The Christian Citizen.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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