On Wednesday at the ‘Life 4 Living‘ group that I attend, we had a very interesting seminar on Diversity. In the seminar we were split into two groups and given a laminated sheet with a picture of an island, and a deck of cards with pictures of a diverse group of people, with only their occupation listed on the cards. We were then told that a ship carrying the people on the cards was in an accident, which resulted in the ship sinking and the people being stranded in the middle of the ocean. Each group had a lifeboat – however, on the lifeboat there were only spaces for 10 people, and hence we had to decide who of those people to save and whom to leave in the water.
This was obviously very difficult as the only basis we had to make our decisions is what they looked like and their occupations. During our discussions we decided to save a doctor and nurse, to treat those with medical injuries, a carpenter to help build shelter from the bad weather, and gardener’s to help grow crops and nutrients whilst being stuck on the deserted island.
However, we soon learnt that the doctor who we chose to rescue was in fact a doctor of music and not a medical doctor. And the nurse, was a veterinarian and so would not be very useful in treating human patients! And the people whom we rejected, for example, the biker as we thought he looked like he would cause trouble, would in fact be extremely useful in an emergency situation as he was a surgeon.
This exercise, however, taught us how we often make judgements based on very little information causing us to make snap decisions on the type of person we are busy scrutinising. We are too busy scrutinising others; determining the type of person we believe them to be instead of seeking out the person’s story.
Many of you spoonies reading this will surely understand this; particularly those with invisible illnesses as we are often victim of others’ judgements. For example, once I went out, and forgot my crutch. Due to the problems with my balance, I was all over the place, and as a result, a woman came up to me and accused me of being drunk. I have heard many other stories, of spoonies whom have been victims of incorrect assumptions made by others – people who have been accused of misusing a disability badge, because there were no outward signs of illness or disability, and thus were labelled as being healthy, and in no need of using a disability parking bay. There are endless examples of these types of anecdotes that have been shared by spoonies everywhere. I am sure everyone reading can think of at least one example from their personal experience. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comment section below.
So, the game that we played at Life 4 Living, and through the experience of living with an invisible illness, has taught me to not make assumptions about people, without getting to know them first. To not assume that a person has no wounds, or illness because there are no scars; no signs of illness or disability as not all wounds, illnesses or disabilities are visible, many are hidden as if keeping a secret from the outside world. And as the quote above also tells us, we also shouldn’t judge so quickly or harshly as we may find ourselves walking in that person’s shoes.
Perhaps if we weren’t so quick to judge in the exercise at Life 4 Living then we may have chosen the people that would have been useful whilst being deserted on that island, instead of those we chose based on our preconceived ideas regarding their abilities and resources that they would bring.
This is a lesson that we all must learn….