This week, I ran across this on a friend's blog and, while I read it immediately, I have not had time to process all that it encompasses...until now.
It is the report on Serbian institutions from Mental Disability Rights International. It is only five years old. While I do know that the Serbian government is working hard to change conditions found in this report, I am realistic enough to know that change, even in the best of conditions, is slow, especially when mindsets and culture must change first.
The report freely states that there are good laws about the treatment of adults and children with disabilities, but without funding and public support, the country is in severe violation of its own laws.
There were rows of metal cribs filled with teenagers and young adults. Labeled immobile or bedridden, many of them were kept naked from the waist down on plastic mattresses, covered only with a sheet to facilitate staff clean-up of bladder and bowel incontinence. Staff reported they also eat in the cribs and spend all of their time in the cribs. They never get out. –
I looked into the crib and saw a child who looked to be 7 or 8 years old. The nurse told me he was 21 and had been at the institution for eleven years. I asked her how often he was taken out of the crib and she said “never, he has never been out of the crib in 11 years. –
MDRI investigator, Stamnica Institution
I walked into one room after another, a ward for children 4 to 7 years old. It was the middle of the day and children were confined to their cribs. There was no staff in any of the rooms, no toys, no music – nothing. One boy with Downs Syndrome was hitting his head over and over against the metal crib. Another was tied to the crib in 4 point restraint and still another, with a deep gash on hisear, had his arms tied to the side of the crib – MDRI investigator
Self-abuse is created and exacerbated among children who receive no love and attention and who are abandoned in beds or cribs. Psychological experts agree that they crave some form of stimulus, so they would rather feel pain than feel nothing.
– Karen Green McGowan, RN, expert on children with complexdevelopmental disabilities
And on and on it goes.
And my heart breaks.
These are people. So far removed from our lattes and laptops that we do little more than exclaim, "OMG!" before we move on to the next activity.
And so I weep...and I pray...and I worry about MY child. But mostly, I worry about the ones we'll leave behind. I don't even have to wonder what will happen to them. I already know. So much mind-numbing neglect that they will harm themselves to simply feel something. And they will lie, day after day, hour after hour, alone in their cribs.
And we will do nothing.
It's hard to live with a divided heart. I want to hole up in my room and cry and pray and research and advocate...but life must be lived.
I sound so sanctimonious, and yet, it's often me with the latte and my laptop exclaiming about something over which I have no control. It's often me pleading with God to save them with one breath and complaining about my awful passport photo with the next. I have not learned how to live in this affluent, self-absorbed society and care deeply about a world so vastly different.
And so I complain about things that don't matter and joke about things that matter less. I spend time and money on modern conveniences and dull my concern with facebook and reality programming. And I pretend that the world we've created for ourselves is real and lasting.
But it's not.
There is more to this life. There is more than this life. I want to continue to see beyond the nose on my face and I want to live for more than what I see. I don't want to live thinking I'm exempt from acting if the problem is too huge to solve.
11 Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to death; don't stand back and let them die. 12 Don't try to avoid responsibility by saying you didn't know about it. For God knows all hearts, and he sees you. He keeps watch over your soul, and he knows you knew! And he will judge all people according to what they have done. Proverbs 24:11-12 (NLT)