|The Ramp at Barneveld|
In his book, “The Righteous Mind,” psychologist Jonathan Haidt explains that his three-year old son seemed to be allergic to the word “must.” As an experiment, to see how humans react to the word “must”, Haidt. told his son, “You must eat ice cream.” Proving that this little boy was truly put off by the word “must,” the son declined. The young boy’s brain searched for reasons why he did not have to eat ice cream.
Then, at another time, Haidt, said to his son, “You can have ice cream,” and the boy’s thoughts turned to reasons why he would like to have ice cream, so he accepted the offer.
It seems to me that many UU congregations are also averse to the word “must.” Perhaps we don’t have a creed because we don’t like being told what we must believe. If a congregation believes it must have an elevator, it is understandable that many will look for reasons why this is unfeasible.
If we can change the perspective from “must” to “can,” we can together look for solutions.
Recently members of the Equual Access Board developed some questions to ask your congregation. The hope is that these questions will help turn the conversations from, “We must have congregations accessible for people with disabilities,” to “How can we live our faith in the worth and dignity of all?”
Consider being proactive by asking the congregation’s board the following questions and making these points:
Can we make our congregation more open to:
People who have temporary or permanent mobility impairments?
People with heart or other cardiorespiratory issues?
People who have had strokes or other issues that affect balance?
People who use wheelchairs or scooters?
Families with children in strollers?
Aging members with changing physical challenges?
All clergy, lay leaders and others who participate in worship?
All members, friends and visitors?
How can we put our Congregation’s Covenant into action?
If we believe in honoring the inherent worth and dignity of all people, how can we demonstrate that in our actions?
To paraphrase the famous baseball movie, if you build it, we will come.