As far back as I can remember, Jerry Lewis has been hosting his annual Labor Day weekend telethon. Frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever watched more than two minutes of it, despite considering this tradition a generous gesture.
I’ve never taken the time to learn of his initial motivations. I always just assumed he was a man with a big heart and a desire to help hurting kids. I’m also not aware of how much money he’s raised for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, but assume it’s in the billions of dollars. And I don’t even know very much about the MDA, but just by its mission, I’ve always considered it a worthy organization.
This week while I was wandering about the internet, I came across several sites which were adamant in their opposition to the MDA Telethon. There was a common theme running throughout the discussions. All of the sites were hosted by disabled people who were offended that Jerry Lewis, according to them, plays on the viewer’s emotions and basically guilt’s them into giving to the MDA. They cited how common it is for the telethon to show cute little children in various stages of challenge.
At the heart of this discussion and opposition is their desire to be respected and not pitied. They seek equality not sympathy.
The other evening I was standing in the back of a graduation ceremony. It was a two-week summer program one of my sons was in, our middle child. It is a program we sent our oldest to before and it is a great college prep program. This program helps high schoolers be prepared for what they will see in college, it is an intensive program that really opens there eyes to how the world will be once they leave home.
It began with the usual thanking everyone who played some role in making the program happen and all of the usual pomp and circumstance that goes along with these ceremonies. But as I watched what was transpiring from the platform a young man came and sat down in the grass in front of me. I would not have noticed him at all had he not started immediately to fidget and rock in his place. I also noticed that soon after he arrived so did a young lady who sat next to him who began talking to him and she was clearly watching over what he was doing.
Since, because of our own child with a disability and the last 15 years of serving families with disabilities, I saw some of the behaviors I am familiar with and I made a few assumptions. I assumed he was the sibling of someone in the program, coming to watch the event with the rest of us. After all there were children from all over the U.S. and a few from other countries. Surely he would cheer when his siblings name was called and my suspicions would be validated.
In 2005 I was having lunch with a friend, explaining to him a problem I perceived. I saw that families affected by special needs were not connected to their local church, and many didn’t know what was available to help them. I told my friend I wanted to do something about it. I prayed that I could do something for families just like mine, those who have a loved one with disabilities. Soon after, in 2006, Need Project arose out of that vision. Our name, which seemed like an obvious choice to me, reflected our goal: to meet some of the needs of special families like mine. We simply wanted to help; that has been our aspiration from the beginning. We created things like our podcast to inform and inspire, and our database of local resources to connect people with the day-to-day support they need. These have all been born out of that initial prayer from 2005.
As we approach our tenth anniversary, we believe it is the right time to stop and examine all we do, and to answer the same questions we had ten years ago. Is what we are doing helping? Are there other things we could be doing that would make a bigger difference? Over the next few months we will be in prayer, thinking and planning about what we do and how we can do it better. There may be things we simply stop doing, because they are not making a difference. Maybe some of the things we are doing need to be changed in order to have a better effect. We are looking at all our programs to see just what we can do to truly fulfill our goal.
If you are part of a family affected by special needs, we would love to hear from you. What are the biggest needs you have? How can we help? We want to know: helping families always has been and will remain our objective, and your feedback enables us to do that in the best way possible. We pray that in the next ten years, God will enable us to support families more effectively than ever before.
Look for us connecting with you in 2016 to share our new vision, and be in prayer for us during this time of transition and decision.
Where to turn? Visit Need Project to locate numerous local and web resources concerning one of dozens of Disabilities Resources that can help guide you and your family where you can go in times of difficult circumstances. We're here to provide a bridge to help in your time of need to receive the resource(s) you need the most.
What are Disabilities? A disability is either an impairment that could be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental, or some combination of these. A disability may be present from birth, or occur during a person's lifetime.
Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.
"What kind of Disabilities Resources does the Need Project provide? If you have the need to locate assistance for Schizophrenia, Autism, Cystic Fybrosis, Down Syndrome, Epilepsy, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Spina Bifida or one of the dozens of other Disabilities Resources -- Let Need Project be there to guide you using our Local Resources to locate disabilities resources in your state and within your own city."
There is help! Be sure to check out our Web Resources to discover helpful medical and general information, including interventions or treatments for dozens of Disabilities Resources.
As I was talking with another parent the other day, I took a moment to listen to her family's story. I realized in the process that someone who didn't know either of us would probably look at our families and put them in the same category. We both have children with special needs, yet our families' experiences couldn't be any more different. Even if our children had been dealing with the same diagnosis, the paths we would have taken to get where we are today would have been radically different. I was struck by something else I had never noticed before; I as a dad have a much different view of our story from even my wife. We men deal with situations very differently than our wives, and this makes the story for us very different. Neither of these perceptions is bad or wrong, only different; men and women need to approach their stories in their own distinct ways. While I see a lot of women sharing each other's burdens, which I think is healthy, I don't see a lot of us men sharing. We do a lot for our families, but we don't spend much time on ourselves.
Now that my son is in his twenties, I have spent more time reflecting on past years, and the things I had to learn over those years in order to be the father and husband I needed to be. I can tell you, I have by no means arrived at a place where I am a model father or husband. I have absorbed a few lessons over the years though, lessons I hope to pass along to others. I hope I can help other fathers avoid some of the hard knocks I took in the learning process.
That's why I created "3 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me" a booklet for dads who are newer to this thing we call parenting. I wanted dads to know that while they are trying to figure out a new diagnosis they are not alone. There are those of us who have gone through this before, and we want to be there for you.
We want to get this into the hands of as many dads as we can; this is why we decided to give the booklet away for free! You can download the digital copy from our website using the link below.
Our goal is to give away 1000 printed copies in the first quarter of 2014. This is where we need your help! Each copy costs us $2.00 to print. For the same price as a small cup of coffee, I can get a copy of our booklet into the hands of a dad who needs to hear that he can make it through the tough time he is facing. More importantly, he will be reassured that he can be there for his family in this critical moment. Isn't that worth a cup of coffee?
Help us support dads. Download and share the digital version with all the dads you know, and donate to help us reach out too!
Click here to download