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We all need to see with God's eyes

2016-05-18 08:29

The conversation went something like this. “How could anybody treat a family member in such a way? The young man thought he was going out with his family for their usual Sunday afternoon walk. He did not know that they had pre-arranged his admission to a nearby long-stay psychiatric unit, where he remained for the following twenty-six years.”

The young man’s leisurely stroll concluded with many years of separation from the outside world. He encountered psychiatric care in the early 60s, when our understanding of learning disorders and psychiatric illness had not reached its current levels and strategies. At the same time, to be fair, there were also many opportunities for excellent treatment and care.

Here in Britain, we constantly hear of the urgent need for the appropriate and upgraded provision of care for people with mental illness or learning difficulties. Although striving for excellence, the reality regularly lags behind the ideal. Sadly, the media repeatedly carries stories of abuse, neglect and even the killing of vulnerable individuals.

Yet there is much that we can do, simply by offering dignity, respect – and love – in day-to-day seemingly mundane events. Take, for instance, the occasion when, in 2013, a family went to a restaurant for lunch, accompanied by their five-year-old boy with Down’s syndrome. A family at a nearby table summoned the waiter and insisted that the others should be moved elsewhere. "Special needs children need to be special somewhere else," the father reportedly said. The waiter took a stand. "My personal feelings took over," he said as he replied, "Sir, I won't be able to serve you.” We can all follow that waiter’s example.

Behind the child with Down’s syndrome and so many others, were and are exceptional parents with an extraordinary commitment, patience, compassion and understanding. Perhaps we could all make our own the words of the artist Camille Pissarro, “Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing”. All we need to do is to look more deeply and to see with God’s eyes.

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