The Cruel Stare

What I have to say today may offend some people. It may make others shout for joy. I am not going to pretend that I am not hurt.

We just returned from our church service and the apple orchard we stopped at on our way home. We all love apple crisp so it seemed like a great day to pick a few apples and make something we all like so much. If I could give you a picture, it would be one you would NOT like to look at. It would be titled, “The Cruel Stare.”

In the picture I am doing what I love with my family. I am at church where I go to learn. I go to see people I know. I go to listen to the music that I can’t sing. I go to hear the Bible that I cannot hold myself.

It is a picture of me trying to be UN-noticed. I am eager to be there. However, I sit on my couch at home today, away from the stares and pauses that people give me whenever I am away from the shelter of home. I don’t think I look odd. In fact, I am told I am a beautiful person, and yet I can’t go anywhere without being stared at. I am not talking about a casual glance.

I am very aware that people are staring at me. It seems even babies are looking at me. The elderly are even more cruel. They act as if I don’t belong there. The children stare as if I’m an object of curiosity. Parents do their own cruel work by ignoring their children who are staring and pointing and gawking.

It is not the kind of stares other people get who are interesting or who are wearing something fun. It is the kind of stare that you would give when you are looking at a car crash, filled with curiosity and the gratitude that it’s not your problem, but the freedom to stare as long as you feel like it until the accident victim gets wheeled away.

The picture is the reality. It is not ok to stare at anyone out of cruel curiosity. It is my experience, and the reality of many of us who live with a physical disability.

It is hard to believe that Jesus would be impressed with the way humans have treated each other. If I understand it correctly, Jesus had great compassion for those who were mistreated and suffered in their bodies. He loved them. He showed compassion to people who were overlooked and begged for food because they couldn’t get their own. How can we be so off course?

We need each other. We need the wisdom and understanding that many people who live with great struggles have. And those of us who live with great physical struggles, need the wise understanding of friends and those who are stronger than we are.

I know that most people do not intend to be cruel, but I’m feeling too sad to share more about this today.



9 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Mary Lenertz said,

    Hi Karly,
    Thank you for sharing this story. You tell it so eloquantly and so vividly. I have seen those stares. You are right about it being cruel and wrong. It is not how Jesus would have done it. It is a perfect WWJD learning opportunity. I know that I work hard with my children, at their schools, at our church, and in our community to instill that we are all wonderfully made with purpose by God. He does not “mess up.” You are beautiful and you are making a difference each time to write your blog and share your story. Mary

  2. 2

    Sandy said,

    I believe God has a plan for everyone! I am sorry people stare at you, I wish they could see what I see…..You have so many talents yet you are humble and greatful and without arrogance. You have physical disabilities yet you are loving and generous. You are a perfect example of how we should all live our lives!

  3. 3

    Bethany Crossley said,

    Thank you for putting into words what so many people and families feel, who can’t express as truthfully as you did, the pain that comes from other people’s ignorance and uncharity. I know that Jesus stands up for each one of us and that you are making a difference by letting your voice be heard. I love you and am so grateful for our friendship!!!

  4. 4

    Thank you for so beautifully sharing your insights. My mother was a quadrapalegic for the last nine years of her life, and I remember the stares on the rare occasions we were able to go out to the mall, so that she could help us with our school shopping. She had a little trick that she told me about, she would see someone stare, then walk past her, and they would ALWAYS turn around when they were a few feet in front of her and stare again. She would focus right on the back of their head, so then when they turned around she would be looking them right in the eye. She had a good sense of humour about it, but I know it hurt her, and us too.
    I’m sorry you have this struggle in addition to your other challenges. It makes me anxious for heaven, where my mom is now free of those challenges, and where we will all be completely free!
    You have blessed me, and I thank you.

  5. 5

    Jen Gruber said,

    My dear Karly,
    I heard your message from church and I am so blessed by you. I haven’t seen you in years – but what a wonderful young woman you have become. I am so proud of you and your accomplishments and I just want to keep encouraging you to write – your story. Everyone needs to hear it and you speak so eloquently and from your heart. Truth is truth – and that is hard for us Christians to hear. I still remember the day you came out to our barn and met our horses. You had a very special moment with one of the horses that I treasure in my heart to this day. That was a defining moment for me – and now I teach children riding and I also have worked with Courage Riders and in Malaysia, Riding for the Disabled. You continue to be my inspiration along with all the children who have blessed my path. Blessings and joy to you. Your auntie from the other side of the “family”
    Jen Gruber

  6. 6

    Lori said,

    I heard about your blog on KTIS this morning. I have a son who is profoundly autistic and makes odd sounds and outbursts and jumps around a lot. I have also seen those stares. I try to think that people are just wondering what his diagnosis is but some are truly annoyed that I would bring him in public. It is very sad and has caused us to not take him places at times. The one place that none of those stares were present was at a Joni and Friends family retreat. Joni Erickson Tada has a christian ministry for families with disabled members to come, enjoy outside and have a week long christian experience in a fun, safe place where everyone knows what it is like. They do it in the summer, it was such a blessing to our family. You might want to look into it next summer. Go to joni and friends, I think it is .org – maybe .com to look it up.

    Anyway, hang in there. Those who don’t know probably don’t mean to be so unkind. Thanks for being courageous enough to bring it up. You are perfect in His sight. I don’t know you but pray that you will never have to experience the sting of the unkind stare again.


  7. 7

    David said,

    Karly….I look outside day after day and see a world in disorder. A world that needs a savior. A world that is all too impressed with wealth and power. Then I come across your blog and see the hand of God working in your heart and through your words. God uses people like you to draw our attention back toward him and what is truly important in life. You inspire me and I am sure that God has chosen you to do wonderful things for his glory. I pray for God’s riches blessings on your life. ~ Thank you!

  8. 8

    norma boyd said,

    what a thrill to see all this that you have done…I am so proud of you, Karly. Love you, Gram Norma

  9. 9

    Rachel said,

    Karly –

    WOW… what a feeling of kinship in finding someone who can convey in writing what needs to be heard by the heart.

    I’m deaf and communication can be a challenge. I know the cruel stares you describe all too well.

    And it is hard to put into words what they can do to your spirit.

    But I’ve seen you overcome. Just in these online pages of your thoughts.

    You have a stubborn hope – and it is a beautiful thing.

    (I have a horse too – we rescued her and she has become my amazing friend)

    Would love to be friends with you. So very glad I found your blog!


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