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Justice & Love in the Accessible Room
How I learned a transformative lesson in the most unusual way.
I was traveling a couple weeks ago.
As the invited guest on a panel at a symposium in Utah, I was consistently amazed by how beautiful the landscape was. I was snapping pictures with my jaw dropped for the whole 45-minute drive from the airport to my hotel.
We got to my hotel and the check-in process was seamless.
But I started noticing odd things when I got to my room. The bathroom counters were lower than I was used to. The closet racks were low and situated in a weird way. When I went in the bathroom, there was no separation between the shower and the toilet. There was no tub. No glass door. Just a retractable shower curtain that reached the floor.
And a shower seat. I realized they’d given me a handicap accessible room, and things started to make sense.
At first, I was sort of irritated. Why couldn’t I just get a normal room? This is so annoying.
But then I thought about the fact that there was not one single thing I could not do in that room. Everything I needed to do was easily doable. I might have had to bend over a little bit to iron and rinse my razor off. But I could get the job done.
And I thought about how a disabled person, the sort of person this room was designed to accommodate, might not have been able to do any of those things without the room being designed in this specific way.
I could get by just fine in a space that was designed to accommodate them.
They would not be able to experience the fullness of the hotel’s experience without these accommodations.
I learned a lot about justice in that moment.
It’s easy to miss injustice that doesn’t directly impact us.
If you’ve never been on the wrong side of a transgression, justice might feel like a nuisance.
But a better world demands that we all make adjustments so that everyone can experience the fullness of life.
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This post would do well enough on its own as a post about disability justice. But this is also a post about love. Genuine love. The commitment to wholeness. The sort of love we ought to think about when we read the words God is love.
I learned about the sort of love Jesus models when he stands with the people most of society had pushed to the margins of their conscience, and it gave me something to aspire to.
Love is the liberating force that allows everyone to live abundantly. It may require us to adjust the degree to which we expect the world to cater to our own personal needs. But when we love well, we’ll find that prioritizing the needs of the often forgotten and least understood doesn’t marginalize anyone.
In centering the needs and committing to the wholeness of others, we humanize ourselves. We undo the programming that teaches us that self-reliance to the point of self-centeredness is a virtue. Love makes community possible.
After a couple of days, I checked out of that hotel room with a better understanding of what love embodied looks like.
I took advantage of one last chance to take in all of the beautiful landscapes on the long ride back to the airport. I looked at these big, snow capped mountains in the summer time. I thought about the Creator of those heights. I inhaled deeply. I thought about how big the world was. I exhaled. And then I just smiled.
Who would’ve thought one handicapped accessible hotel room could teach me so much?