I’m on holidays. A staycation now and a short vacation tomorrow. It’s been nice – I’ve done some writing and pitching, some travel planning, some cleaning, and some napping. I’ve also been trying to exercise regularly – going for walks and doing squats and sit-ups. I walked to the post office and back yesterday – it’s around a kilometre, and including talking to three friends and waiting in the queue at the post office, it was a 45 minute round trip. In that time, one man slowed down to a stop to have a look at me, and a lady pushing a little vinyl-covered trolley stopped me to offer me a pamphlet titled ‘A prayer to stop your suffering’. I smiled at the lady, politely refusing her offer and walked on. I also waved on the man, telling him to keep driving, that there’s no need to stare.
These incidents, while occasional, don’t upset me. However I do take issue at people forcing their religious beliefs onto me, with no background knowledge of my condition. There’s no cure, and I don’t need a ‘better’ life, thanks. (I have written about why I am not religious previously – this has a lot to do with how religious people have treated me over the years. I understand that some of my readers may be religious, and some people do ask for prayer in times of need, and I respect that.) Friends – with Ichthyosis and with other conditions – have told me they’ve experienced similar – unwanted healing hands, advice about faith healers and being made to feel guilty for being human.
Good intentions can be rude and presumptuous. I hate that people think my life must be so bad that I need prayer and pity from strangers. I hate that the prayers they offer may be attached to a sense of personal guilt about feeling uncomfortable around me. Especially when I’m clearly not suffering, I am just going about my day doing the things that they’re doing too.
I get the sense that strangers believe we need to be granted forgiveness from past sins, to be healed of an infliction that is seen to be grotesque, and a great condescension – just like a pat on the head, or an “it’s so good to see someone like you out and about” comment. I also think that a lot of what people say to us is because they’re pushing their own insecurities onto someone else.
I feel there’s an expectation that because of such misplaced good intentions, and especially because the religious aspect of the situation, that I will be polite. Because religion is associated with kindness and charity. And so I am polite – I just walk on and smile. But these misplaced good intentions – sheer pity – are rude, intrusive and condescending.
I would much rather the people who offer healing prayers put their good intentions to good use and physically help people in need – maybe working at a soup kitchen, volunteering in a hospital or donating food, toys and clothes to a charity organisation for distribution in the community.
Of course with every pitying person comes many, many polite people. I’d much rather a person say hello and smile than clumsily showing me their misplaced good intentions. My life is no less without religion or unwanted prayer and pity, just as it’s no less with Ichthyosis.
(The Matter with Megan has written a much more articulate post about being prayed to, to cure her of her rare skin condition – you should read it!)
(And yes, the situation in that video has actually happened – numerous times – only in reverse. Ridiculous isn’t it?)