I have what is called an “invisible disability,” that is, a disability that is not always obvious to an onlooker or acquaintance but sometimes or always limits daily activities. This may range from mild challenges to severe limitations and vary from person to person and sometimes, even from day to day.
“Invisible disabilities” is a phrase that refers to symptoms such as cognitive dysfunctions, chronic pain, fatigue, learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, as well as hearing and vision impairment and more. In my case the hearing in my left ear was severely damaged in late 2015. While I wear a hearing aid, it is nearly useless in some conditions, such as in the Great Hall during potlucks or anytime when several people are talking at once.
Why is this important to know? You might think I’m ignoring you when I don’t respond to a question or comment when I simply didn’t hear you. You might get annoyed when I ask you to repeat something several times. I might mis-hear something that you said and seemingly reply inappropriately. Every day I wonder what I’m missing when I don’t hear the clever quip that makes everyone else chuckle or catch the anxious tone behind a simple request. And sadly, my hearing will only get worse as I age.
The quote in my headline is from the Rev. John Watson and I chose it deliberately because it doesn’t just speak to invisible disabilities but to other things we cannot see. There are people around us struggling with incredible disruptions in their lives. Disruptions like divorce, custody battles, food insecurity, the death or severe illness of a loved one, the loss of a job — the list is endless. The political atmosphere has struck terror in the hearts of many who fear they may lose their livelihoods, their families may be torn apart or indeed, that their very lives may be in danger. These too, are things that you cannot see.
These things are not only happening somewhere “out there,” they are happening within our beloved Heritage community. Please, my dear ones, be kind. Above all else, be kind.