I met Paul, he was twenty-seven years old, the size of an eight-year-old,
living in a body that was totally disabled. He couldnt sit
by himself. He was strapped in a chair. His body was mangled.
Saliva streamed down his chin. His tongue moved erratically, but
his eyes spoke to me.
Thirty years ago people who were totally disabled were often put
away, fed and kept clean. Few people thought about their quality
A missionary friend began working at the home where Paul stayed.
She wanted to get outsiders involved. Therefore, she came to my
church to recruit volunteers. My friend and I volunteered to go
to Merci Home on Saturday mornings and teach Bible classes. We
taught on the preschool level. Most of the individuals enjoyed
what we were doing, but not Paul. His eyes spoke volumes. He seemed
to be saying, Who do you think you are, coming in here,
teaching me this baby stuff? Give me something more.
As it happened, there was a couple we will call Jane and Tom,
whose son was in our church day care. They had a daughter with
disabilities. Tom was an engineer and had designed a computer
for his daughter. His daughter was able to blow Morse Code into
the computer, and words came up on the screen. She went on to
attend school in Virginia and was writing a book last time I heard.
I told Jane about Paul.
take a computer over there and well see if hes in
there, said Jane.
took the computer. Paul learned twenty-eight sight words the first
day. Soon after that Paul was given his own computer. I will never
forget the day when I walked in to where Paul had just finished
Did you enjoy your lunch? I asked.
I ate tea, responded Paul on his computer. Paul was
taught to respond in as few words as possible. It was extremely
difficult to punch the message into the computer. But he was doing
Today, Paul still lives at Merci Home. But his quality of life
has greatly improved. Over the past years Paul has traveled to
places like Gatlinburg, Chattanooga, and Memphis. He has ridden
a horse and an airplane. Although Paul doesnt use the computer
much any more, he has a message board on his chair and a call
button that announces: My name is Paul; I need assistance.
Paul is the senior adult in his house. Eight adults live in Pauls
house, ranging in age from twenty to fifty-two years. While at
home, Paul often watches wrestling or American Idol on TV.
Many Americans with disabilities benefit from the Disabilities
Act of 1990, which took effect July 26, 1992. Today, children
with disabilities benefit from early intervention, and employers
are required by law to accommodate people with disabilities. The
general public is more accepting because people with disabilities
are no longer hidden away. Barriers have been broken. People with
disabilities have the same hopes and dreams as people without
disabilities and they have the same rights to the pursuit of their
of us need more help than others. But we could all use a little
help from our friends.
Evelyn Allen wrote her first book as partial requirement for
her Master of Art's Degree at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
She is published in Youth Leadership Magazine and writes
"Little Stories about You and Me" for two newspapers.
For the past six years she has researched and written a five book
series: The Covenant Woman. She is currently a member of
the Williamson County [Tennessee] Council for the Written Word
and the Tennessee Writers Alliance.
Nancy Evelyn Allen