by Mike Friesen.
Mike is one of my close friends. He’s a great writer, thinker, and theologian. He also works in a home for those with disabilities, and while we were talking recently, I asked him to write a series about what he’s learning. This is part 2. You can read part 1 here. Enjoy. You can follow Mike on twitter here.
As kids, we are taught through the actions of parents and guardians that it is okay to be in need. We had problems and needed things, and they took care of them. We were okay with this because society is okay with this, and because our parents told us it was okay. When we became adults, we felt ashamed when we were not able to escape being in need.
I remember the first time I wiped a butt. One of my clients had issues with his weight and could not do a very good job of wiping himself. If we did not wipe him, he was at risk of getting hemorrhoids.
It was my first overnight shift and my client had just moved into the house. When he woke up in the morning, he took his morning bowel, and he liked to take his time. He and I had something in common that morning; I did not want to wipe his butt and he did not want me to wipe his butt. He resisted me and fought me until my will outlasted his. He then agreed, and I helped him out. After that, I did not find it so hard wiping someone else’s butt, but he still hated it. The months went on he resisted me less and less, and it became less and less of a problem.
I remember it like it was yesterday; It was a cold Minnesota morning. I was doing the dishes in the kitchen and I heard a loud voice coming from his room. He screamed at me, “Hey Mike, come here, I got something to show you.” I walked into his room and he had his bathroom door wide open. There, he was like a defensive lineman in a three point stance, and he said to me, “Hey Mike, what do you think about this?” He then took his shorts off and started shaking his bare butt back-and-forth at me in celebration. He chucked his shorts outside of his bathroom and started doing a naked dance in front of me. After about fifteen seconds of this, he proclaimed to me, “Okay, you can wipe my butt now.”
He taught me two things that morning. The first was that he was on his own journey that took him from humiliation to humility. The second was that he took the vulnerable step into his powerless and embraced the fact that he needed help.
He found a way to take what was once shameful for him and embraced a path that says: I know that I need you, and I am grateful that you are here. For some people, it may be a friend who shows up after a relationship goes bad. For others, it might be going to a meeting where people deal with their own struggles together. For him, it was his acceptance of his powerlessness that culminated in a naked dance party. He expressed his former struggle with joy and gratitude, and shared it with us.
He taught me through his actions to say, “I’ve come to know that I need you in this.” For me to say, “Well, hey, it is okay for you because you have disabilities.” is also to say, “I exclude you from humanity because it is not okay for me to have this because we do not live in the same world.”
This was the first of the miracles that came out of that bathroom.