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One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion. — Simone de Beauvoir, 20th-century French author

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. — Christopher Reeve (1952-2004), actor, director and advocate for people with disabilities

This session uses the story of Unitarian Universalist Christopher Reeve to examine our first Unitarian Universalist Principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person. After a fall from a horse, Reeve went from being an active, athletic man who portrayed Superman on-screen to losing the ability to move his body below the neck. Reeve went on to live a different kind of heroism as an advocate for research and support to help people with spinal cord injuries. He spoke to Congress and many other audiences. He founded the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which funds research on spinal cord injuries and offers grants to improve the lives of people who have become disabled.

Christopher Reeve's story serves as a springboard to issues of inclusion as children are guided to reflect on the ways we affirm the worth and dignity of every person. They learn how our congregations affirm our first Principle when we provide accessibility to people of differing abilities, and they consider what it means when we fail to provide such a welcome. Participants explore what they can accomplish without using physical abilities they ordinarily rely on. As they broaden their thinking about what constitutes "ability" or "disability," children also learn that each of us has the capacity to use our personal agency to do good in the world — no matter how we are "abled."

When the group conducts an accessibility audit of your congregational facility (Activity 6), use the perspective of whether we would be able to welcome Superman. This activity will be most effective using a wheelchair or a large stroller to test surfaces, thresholds, and inclines for accessibility.

Goals

This session will:

  • Use the story of Christopher Reeve and his work on behalf of people with spinal cord injuries to explore the first Unitarian Universalist Principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person
  • Educate and encourage participants to live the first Principle by being careful to welcome all people by making sure places are accessible to all
  • Foster participants' empathy
  • Demonstrate how to honor different people's individual gifts
  • Teach children how they can and do express their faith — their ideas of right and wrong, their values, and their beliefs — with real actions.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Learn about Unitarian Universalist Christopher Reeve, whom we associate with heroism as Superman, yet whose inherent worth and dignity shone and whose actions proclaimed his faith values after he became disabled
  • Explore ways to accomplish physical tasks in different ways than they usually do
  • Imagine the important abilities they would retain if unable to use their bodies below the neck
  • Identify ways their own congregation might not be fully accessible to people with disabilities
  • Recognize the importance of fully including everyone in the congregational community and honoring their different abilities and other differences
  • Name ways they did or could translate their Unitarian Universalist faith and/or Principles into action.

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For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.