Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

My Friend, Paul

Nancy Evelyn Allen


When 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 couldn’t 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 of life.

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.

“I’ll take a computer over there and we’ll see if he’s in there,” said Jane.

She 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 his lunch.

“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 it.

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 doesn’t 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 Paul’s 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 dreams.

Some of us need more help than others. But we could all use a little help from our friends.

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Nancy 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

© Nancy Evelyn Allen

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012