I need to start this column with a major disclaimer: I am not someone who has a disability.
But in case you think I’m completely unqualified to write this, I have spent my entire life in close contact with someone who does have one: my older brother.
Andrew Leaman, a senior Christian ministry major, lost his hearing when he was a baby. The story of how that happened is for another time (besides, it’s really his story to tell and not mine).
I have learned some important life lessons from interacting with my brother.
First, I learned to always try to look at things from a different perspective.
That may seem like obvious advice, but all I know is I often forget to do this.
My brother is constantly looking at life through a different lens because of his disability. He is always reconciling the way he understands the world and the way hearing people understand the world. He is willing to see and understand different perspectives.
Just recently, I was struggling to understand the actions of someone in my life, and I happened to bring it up to my brother.
He made an insightful observation about the situation, and he really helped me understand the other person’s perspective.
It was simple, but I didn’t see it, and my brother did.
What I learned from him in this situation is that the people around you often see things a lot clearer than you do.
Second, I learned patience is a two-way street. My older brother is a naturally very curious person. Growing up, he always wanted to know the “why” behind everything.
His disability has enhanced his natural curiosity. He has said to me he wants to make sure he doesn’t miss anything because he is hard of hearing.
While I certainly understood this, his incessant questions about my feelings, things I had said and my actions still drove me crazy. My anger at his nosiness would set him off because he insisted he was just trying to understand me.
He suggested that if I could learn to be patient with his curiosity and answer some of his questions, he could learn to be patient with my stubbornness and not ask so many questions.
In this situation, my brother taught me that, to resolve an ongoing conflict, both sides should exercise patience and understanding.
Third, I learned that forgiveness should be first.
When he was young, my brother attended a Christian school with me and my older sister. He was bullied nearly every day by his classmates just because he is hard of hearing.
The other kids, with whom my brother just wanted to be friends, tormented him and called him names nearly every day. When he tried to fight back, they simply bullied him more. His teachers did next to nothing about it.
Despite all this, my brother does not hold a grudge against anyone who mistreated him. In fact, we still interact with some of his former bullies, and they are now his friends, like he always wanted them to be.
My brother, with the Lord’s help, decided to just forgive them. His willingness to forgive both challenged and inspired me to forgive people completely and not hold their past actions against them.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I think my brother is pretty great. (Sorry, ladies. He’s already taken. Hi, Kathryn!)
He’s my hero, and I wanted to thank him for letting me write about him in this column. (Love ya, Bro!)
Anyway, you are now at that “So what’s it got to do with me?” point in the article.
Well, I think we can all agree that here at BJU we are constantly interacting with many different people every day.
I was hoping this article could give you some new perspectives on your roommates, friends, significant others and faculty.
Maybe you could look around and reflect. You might see how much you can learn and have already learned from the people in your life.