When Flora Williams suddenly found herself trapped in a Mexican tour bus, her sunny vacation plans turned to shock and horror within mere minutes. What started out as a terrific getaway, soon resulted in months of hospital stays, doctor’s appointments, and a life-changing disability, Flora, an independent and active woman involved in church ministry, professorship, and music, soon found herself having to adapt to her many hobbies and interests using only one arm.
Flora’s story is a testimony of God’s love and faithfulness even in the midst of trial and tragedy. Despite some initial depression and questioning, Flora’s ability to see the bigger picture and maintain a strong faith in God is a great witness to many who find themselves in similar circumstances.
One of the highlights of Flora’s book for me from a purely disability theology angle is her chapter entitled “Journey Through the Land of People.” In this section, Flora describes two different common response to her injury: paradox and paradise. In the paradox stage, Flora discovers that people often choose to respond to someone “differently-abled” (to use her preferred terminology) with shock, pity, curiosity and uncertainty. She also mentions that in this phase people consider her “super-human” or rush in to provide “service.” Conversely, in paradise people act out of humility, love, and service. Flora writes, “Along the way, I met people with a kindred spirit, accepting me as a whole person, simply, honestly, connect without judging, accepting me as I was. They were seeing my internal spirit not my external loss.” Although I have severed as a disability advocate for the past four years, Flora’s explanation is helpful in providing us with the invaluable perspective of someone differently abled. This is a chapter I will refer to again and again in my own work in the field and would encourage other advocates to also become aware of.
Flora’s book is genuine and sincere. It does not sugar-coat the harsh realities and difficulties facing people with disabilities (both from breaking away from societal norms and prejudices as well as the increased complications of more practical tasks). However, it also provides hope and support for those with physical disabilities by encouraging us to learn new methods of adaptation.
Although Flora’s book is a wonderful personal story and a great witness to her faith in God, my only caution would be surrounding some of the more graphic details she shares about in her writing. Flora describes in great detail the accident and accompanying medical appointments. This is helpful in aiding her story by providing a greater context of her reality and helping us enter in to her struggles. Nevertheless, for someone with a more sensitive disposition, the details can become quite unsettling and uncomfortable. Therefore, this book should be read with caution and shared only with those who are willing to hear the truth for what it is.
I highly recommend Flora’s book both for individuals with disabilities as well as caregivers, friends, family members, and community activists. It is a book I believe belongs in every church library and wherever the message of disability inclusion seeks to be shared widely. Thank you, Flora, for allowing me to enter into your story and your life.
Flora’s book is available at: https://www.amazon.ca/Hand-God-Witnessing-Way/dp/1424121477 and at https://www.abebooks.com/9781424121472/Hand-God-Witnessing-Way-Williams-1424121477/plp