Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The New R-Word: RESPECT!

Tomorrow, March 7, 2012, is just one of 366 (this year) days you can share your commitment to using and embracing a new R-word: RESPECT. It is also the annual pledge activation day TO SPREAD THE WORD to end the word (R#tard).

Our minister, Christine Johnson (see her blog, The Art of Ministry) joined us at Jessie's PATH last spring, and offered to help her craft a basic speech and to provide her with a venue for speaking (one of her life goals): the pulpit! She invited her to do so as part of a drive to examine our inclusivity at church and in the Sunday school, where we challenged ourselves to look at how committed we are to including everyone of every race, socio-economic status, gender, sexual and gender orientation, ability etc., ... in our ministry and community.

Jessie was delighted to speak out about the R-word, and with a little bit of help from her friend Rebecca (sister to Rachel, daughter of my bestest friend Cathy, and wonderful voice coach and violinist) crafted the following, which she would like me to share here, leading up to this very important day.

Hi. My name is Jessie Huggett, I’m 21, I have Down syndrome—Down syndrome is when you have an extra chromosome and there are lots of things that go with it, including intellectual disability—and I am a member here at Glebe St. James.

I believe that words have the power to hurt and to heal. Here are some healing words I like: Gifted, creative, love, inclusion, forgiveness, friend, power, belonging and equality.

As for words that hurt, there is one word in particular I really do not like. I have a really hard time saying this word because it is really hurtful. The word is “r#tard” or “r#tarded.”

This word, the R-word, has the power to hurt people with disabilities just like me. It makes us feel as if we don’t matter, but the fact is we do matter. Because we have a voice and we need to be heard.

Most people in the community or in society don’t usually say this word deliberately intending to hurt your feelings—they use it in casual conversations. But it DOES hurt.

I encourage you to stop using the R-word. I also encourage you to spread the word to end the word. Let other people know that it is an offensive word and they shouldn’t use it.

At the end of the service we will have computers all set up so you can join the thousands of others around the world who have pledged not to use the R-word. Instead, use words that promote respect, acceptance and inclusion. Thank you.

When the service was over, congregants and visitors went for coffee and to pledge. I was never so proud of a community! So, if you yourself have not pledged, go right now to http://www.r-word.org/  and do so!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I miss reading about Jessie, she is an inspiration.