The Harnisch Family

The Harnisch Family

Feb 3, 2012

"Disability Theology" Class at MU

It was surreal being back on Midland's campus the other day...ten years after graduating!  Man I felt old.
This is a pic of Kenzie running across campus last fall, one day we were visiting Grandpa Harnisch.

But, mostly I was excited and looked forward to being a part of Dr. Wilder's "Christian Theology" class.

hmmmmm.  Looks like I am "THAT PERSON".  That person who actually takes a college class for fun and is not seeking any official credit hours.  Who does that?
And of all classes I would have thought I would be interested in taking (for fun), you'd think that anything Photography related, somthing associated with graphic arts, journalism. PR or marketing perhaps?  But nope.  Ten years ago, never in a MILLION years, would I have imagined that I would be motivated to sit in on a RELIGION class (I'm just being honest).

But this course is unique & happens to be quite relevant to my specific interests during this exact season of my life.  And the professor is awesome, relatable and has a wonderful energy and spirit about her.

Dr. Wilder (Courtney as she insists on being referred to as) sent me a note a couple weeks ago (just out of the blue) asking if I would be at all interested in coming to speak to her students.  She basically wanted me to share my experiences with Down Syndrome, how this new journey has impacted our life, how WONDERFUL Macy is, the kinds of outreach programs and various resources that are available to these individuals and their families, etc...

I thought it was very nice of her to think of me in this regard...
I told her I would absolutely love to come speak to her class, and that I do not, by all means, consider myself any sort of expert in this area, but I am a parent with a pure and honest journey, of which I do not mind sharing with others.  I consider myself a lifetime advocate for my sweet girl as well others with disabilities.  I simply want to spread the word that people with special needs are capable of living long, productive and fullfilling lives.  My ultimate dream is for Macy to grow up in a world that is accepting, inclusive and finds value in her as well as in others like her.
Things are changing in our society, things are changing in our schools, things are changing in our churches and work places...and I am thrilled to see that things are changing at Universities (and at my Alma Mater no less)!
This dynamic class consists of about 40 or so students.  I have learned that most are religion, nursing or teaching majors -all of which are relevant and associate regularly and will have constant exposure to individuals with special needs.  Makes sense!  I'm glad there is now a class of this nature available to them.  :-)
It is my goal to help, in any small way that I can, to help generate awareness for a more tolerant society that embraces, encourages and celebrates these differences.

I told Courtney that it would be fascinating to speak to her "Disability Theology" class.  In fact, I was wondering what the possibility might be for me to sit in on the entire semester!?  I though it would be very insightful and enlightening to sit in on all of them (not just the one/ones I would be speaking at). 
Just thought it couldn't hurt to ask right!  :-)  I mean it's not as though I have a life anyway (ha!).

So was so very kind, checked into it, and said that she would be "delighted" to have me in the class.
Strangely enough, that while I feel as though we are super busy lately and could not possibly squeeze anything more into our daily schedule, it just so happens that Mon, Wed & Fri from 1:15 - 2:05 will actually fit nicely into our routine afterall.  With daycare and the help of my dad we can make it work...ha!

I'm excited to have this opportunity to "spread the good word" and fill my own spiritual bucket at the same time. :-).  All the while being a part of every (well, maybe not every but most) class all semester long.
So...this semester we will explore a wide range of texts on disability, religion, the Disability Rights & it's relation to the human rights movement, the ELCA's Socal Statement on disability, how this all fits into Christian thoelogical traditions, etc...I am going into it with an open mind and heart. I say open heart, as this is a complex and ambiguous issue, which will be viewed from all different angles, perspectives and opposing interpretations.  Some of which may be heart-breakingly difficult for me to hear about, but it's okay, I think it's healthy and okay to hear it - step outside of my safe "bubble" for a bit (and then turn around and be grateful that these are not the thoughts and feelings of most - not my friends & family at least - and that's ALL that matters).
I may interject with a few arguments - but mostly I will just sit back, listen and soak it all in.

We will be analyzing and discussing a variety of writings, journals, films, books and biblical scripture of course.  A few of those book titles include:  Vulnerable Communion : A Theology of Disability and Hospitality. (Thomas E. Reynolds) - Human Disability and the Service of God : Reassessing Religious Practice (Nancy L Eiesland) - The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability (Nancy L Eiesland)

I think it's funny and super coincidental that my "worlds" seem to be colliding lately.   
Maybe I'm thinking waay too much into this, but I defintely feel God working through me here.  He most certainly has a hand in this.  Not sure what he is trying to say, or what he is scheming here, but I'll just let it play out and go along with these various opportunities that he has created for me...

I am also excited to be a mentor to a young girl who is a senior at DC West High School. She has decided to take on Down Syndrome Awareness for her "Senior Project". I have met with her and she has some really great ideas! More on that in a later post for another day :)
"come on Grandpa, hurry up, we're gonna be late for class"!

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