The Power of Vulnerability...
If you’ve spent much time downtown around Fortezza, you’ve probably seen Kevan. Kevan is hard to miss because he's such a friendly guy who engages you almost immediately when you're in his presence, and he's in a power wheelchair due to having Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which is a disease that affects the central nervous system. Because I find myself at the front window bar area several times a week, I’ve had the privilege of talking with him and getting to know more of his story. I think Kevan’s story about how his physical vulnerabilities have made way for deep, authentic, and rich friendships is genuinely awe-inspiring. The kind of community that we all seek, Kevan’s circumstances somewhat force him to have. We all long to have those people we can depend on when we’re in need to come help us, to talk with us, to live in genuine relationship with. We are all hardwired for that, but it seems so difficult to attain. I love that Kevan’s story offers this unique perspective of community and how stepping out in vulnerability changes the relationships around us.
When he moved to Fort Wayne four years ago he could have chosen the “normal” way individuals with conditions like his get assistance and either hire aids or receive help through social service programming. As Kevan prayerfully considered his move, he felt God asking him to show up, not seek paid or appointed aid, and live in faith that he would be able to find an all-volunteer, friend-based foundation of caretakers. This is a huge leap of faith, because he requires assistance every single day. Things a lot of us might not think of: Getting out of bed, getting changed, using the restroom, flipping over at night – Kevan needs assistance with all of these things. Such close physical proximity has created a culture of vulnerability among Kevan and the people who help take care of him. He can’t help but be vulnerable as someone helps him bathe, and he has seen how his physical condition has ushered in relationship rich and raw in honesty in a way I believe a lot of us crave, but few of us genuinely and authentically experience on a daily basis. When was the last time you really depending on someone? If you can relate, then you understand what it means to connect that deep.
Even in this, Kevan still had to make the choice to let people in. He could have showed up, gotten the assistance from outside organizations, and kept living. Yet, he chose to live in the vulnerability of needing people. He never shied away from the process of it, he stayed in it. He slowly grew his community and asked others to enter into the journey with him. What a powerful example of living against the stereotype that says being vulnerable means you are weak. What if we all lived in such authentic vulnerability with one another? What if we bared all, letting others in to help where we cannot help ourselves? What if we stepped into others’ lives in the way Kevan’s community has entered in with him?
This story isn't just about Kevan, his needs, and those that "help" him out. Ask any over the 20+ people that help Kevan and they'll tell you that they help because they're friends with Kevan, not because they feel bad or feel responsible for him. They do this because Kevan is their friend and this is just what it takes for everyone to be friends. Doesn't everyone want friends like this? We certainly need to be this kind of friend to others because we all need this.
A few years ago, Kevan and these friends sat around like all of us do and dream about what they want to do, which happened to be exploring sewer tunnels around Kevan's hometown in North Carolina. The conversation didn't stop at the reality that a wheelchair can't fit down into tunnels, it went to how to devise a backpack they could wear that Kevan could ride in. That first exploration led a 3-week backpacking trip around Europe as well as the creation an awareness building campaign called, We Carry Kevan. Right now their in a campaign to travel to China and around Asia.
I'm grateful for Kevan's story as it inspires me to invite people into my life in deep, authentic ways that begin with being ok with my vulnerabilities and leads to authentic friendship.