As I entered my adulthood, I faced another reality. I have been rejected for jobs because my physical limitations were a liability. I have had medical professionals disregard my health concerns because of my history with mental health challenges. I have also had people assume that I was a promiscuous woman because I’m Black and raising three children on my own. A year ago, my family had to move because others did everything they could in their power to let us know that, as a Black family, we were not welcome in the community. For the very first time in my life, I felt as if I didn’t belong.
However, those who see beyond my skin color and my limitations value who I am and what I have to contribute. The same disability that appeared to be a burden to some has opened some amazing opportunities for me. I have a seat at tables where big decisions about education, healthcare and employment are made, decisions that would impact thousands of people. My disability, which has been a disadvantage, has also been a privilege because God has used it to connect me with others that I can serve. Additionally, I have entered many rooms where I was the only Black person present, and I am very aware that many times, my education and the letters behind my name paid for my entrance ticket into those rooms. I wish more rooms were opened for others because everyone’s voice matters. I’m Black. I’m disabled. I’m privileged and I’m disadvantaged. And I use it all to serve others.
How about you? Have you taken the time to consider the privileges you have and how you can use them to promote and cultivate change? Have you explored how you might use the disadvantages you have experienced to help others? We’ve all heard, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Well, our world is broken. The way we view and treat people who are different from us is totally broken and needs some fixing.
You have the power to initiate change. You can choose to speak up when you see injustice. You can be an ally to the oppressed. You can be more intentional about how you include others. Don’t just include people so they are present, but include them so they have opportunities to participate at an equal level. Having a meaningful role to play helps fill our need for belonging (more on that in this article).
Ultimately, it’s not courage that drives change, but passion. Passion fuels us to initiate change. Passion gives us the strength to do what it takes to make the world a better place. And that passion is ignited when we feel discontent. Discontent leads to change. Are you discontented enough to use your privilege to promote inclusion for all?
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” Peter 4:10 (NIV)
Chou Hallegra Gabikiny is the founder of Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC where she writes, speaks, consults, counsels, and coaches to empower individual, organizational, communal, and systemic change. She advocates for inclusion, equity, and unity. Chou is originally from Brazzaville, Congo, and currently resides in South Central PA with her family. She attends West Shore Brethren in Christ of Mechanicsburg, PA, and serves as a field associate for Anabaptist Disabilities Network.