By Lynn Starr
Have you ever had one of those weeks where you feel you have made several bad decisions and “have egg all over your face?” I suppose that builds humility! To rectify the consequences of these bad decisions, I engaged in a process of sorting things out. In deciding to engage in this process, I guess that God had a way of doing things for me by planting ideas in my head. That was pretty amazing. I paid attention to these ideas (our conscience, our inner wise person, our intuition or whatever you call it) Following is an account of how this occurred:
When, talking with Larry last night, I decided to learn first-hand why he needed me close by him most of the time. So first, I crawled down and up the stairs. To simulate a leg that was amputated below the knee, I could not use any part of one lower leg. The floor in the hall leading to a second flight of stairs down to where he spends about 90% of his time, felt very hard and hurt my knees. I wasn’t very tired, but it was certainly much slower than walking downstairs. Then I tried crawling up the stairs; that was a different story. It just about exhausted me!
After that, I sat in Larry’s wheelchair and raised one of my legs off the ground to simulate a below-the-knee amputation, where only his foot and part of his ankle was removed. It was extremely difficult to wheel from his office to his bedroom. It took several attempts to turn the chair so that it would make it through a narrow doorway, into the hall. Then I had to navigate another doorway and turn the chair which, if you don’t know a few “tricks of the trade” can be a challenge (to say the least).
I had now experienced how tiring and time-consuming it was for him to move from one place to another. Thus, I now realized that I had not fully considered his needs when I was working half-time outside the home, Then, on top of that he got the flu! I now understood why he was upset with me for working so many hours and was away from home so much. He was not afraid to let me know how annoyed he was because I had committed to being away from home for so long a period of time. However, with Larry not liking to complain about his difficulties, I wasn’t aware of how much he was suffering. When I asked about his difficulties in “getting around,” among other things, he delayed eating meals in a timely fashion which made him uncomfortable and was not a good way to manage his diabetes. I now realized that I needed to make some changes in how I did things.
I contacted my employer and told her that I had to work at home. When she talked to me about not taking enough time for myself, and the importance, as a woman, to have my own life, separate from his, I informed her that I was taking care of myself. I described how I was immersed in my artwork, involvement in Facebook social action projects, and writing important blogs regarding life choices and practices. I then cancelled my trip to the bay area to see my old high school friends. When I told Larry about these decisions, he said “I love you.” What a sweet thing to say, especially when I was just helping him meet his needs. It also indicated how important these changes were for him to improve the quality of his life and the ability to work. I told him that I plan to put a towel on the hard floor between stair cases to make his stair climbing experience more comfortable. I asked him what he thought of the idea, and he liked it. It is something that had never occurred to him!
Upon reflecting about dealing with this issue, I realized that certain Baha’i concepts had been employed in the process. First, I listened to Larry when he told me he was ill.
Because I needed to more fully ascertain the nature of his problem, (one of the first tools of consultation), I asked Larry to describe what life was like for him when I wasn’t home. I learned once again, that it was much harder and more uncomfortable for him to engage in activities that those of us who are not handicapped take for granted. I can only imagine how frustrated he had been when I had not fully understood his needs despite having talked about them several times.
I then stated what the problem was, which is one of the first tools to employ in true consultation. Subsequent to that, the fact finding part of consultation was employed without my thinking twice! This is because it also occurred to me that I could learn a lot more about his situation and needs.
I started by letting him know I was crawling up and down the stairs to simulate his experience. When crawling, I reported my findings to Larry and he said the same things happened to him all the time! After we reflected on what the crawling experience was like, I asked him if I could borrow his wheelchair to see what it was like to wheel from his office to his bedroom. He agreed to my taking the chair. When I had difficulties navigating through the door to his office to get into the hall, I reported my experiences to him. Again, he informed me that this had been his experience. I had similar difficulties turning the chair, and it took me longer to perform this activity than it did when I used two legs to accomplish the same task.
Searching for a solution was accomplished when I explored the possibility of stating more emphatically to my employer, the need for me to work at home due to Larry’s special needs.
Taking Action as a result of Consultation was the final step in our process. I called my employer and told her that I had short-changed Larry by under-estimating the depth of his disability. I also stated that under no terms would I work at her house, and that if she wanted me to complete the job, she would have to let me take the work home.
Calling wkj and changing our plans was the next action I took. By informing Larry about these measures to accommodate his needs, I was Reporting About Actions and whether or not they succeeded.
Furthermore, I had unknowingly prepared for dealing with this experience by praying for and with him. This enabled me to engage in consultation and come up with ideas to resolve the problems he and I were having.
Consequently, after the tools of consultation had been employed and some action taken, Larry was relieved and grateful. I can only imagine the grinding worry and dread regarding his ability to accomplish things when I wasn’t around to help him. To have successfully employed the tool of consultation to deal with an important issue is a profoundly wonderful experience. I can only thank God and Baha’u’llah (the Teachings of the Faith He founded), for a tool to utilize when faced with difficult problems that seem impossible to solve. I wonder what the world will be like when everybody utilizes consultation to resolve issues in the life of an individual, community, state or nation!