Thinking Out of the Box

When you look back over the last year what lessons are you going to take with you? Life has so dramatically changed, and as the end of restrictions come into sight, it is tempting to start imagining what life will be like when everything returns to ‘normal’. But if we close the door on this past year we will miss an opportunity to take its lessons with us.

For me, the chance to see more of family and friends who live further away on Zoom is something I will continue going forward; as well as the daily walk with its silence to appreciate God’s creation.

Wider than the consequences for us as individuals, there are the changes in attitude which we can all take forward to improve society as a whole.

All my life I have benefitted from people thinking out of the box in order for me to be included: my local village primary school who took me on their roll despite never having had anyone else in a wheelchair; the residential centre that got my friends to hoist me up the climbing wall; my youth group that set up a camera in early March last year so I could join the group from home. Sadly, there have also been plenty of times when the computer has said no!

On the face of it, this has been the year that the computer has said no. Many events were cancelled or postponed and life changed dramatically. But it has also been the year of thinking out of the box, where new solutions have had to be created.  We’ve discovered that when we really value something there is often a way that it can continue; for example, recordings of plays brought theatre into our homes, many community groups set up online and church services continued virtually. But remarkably, we’ve found that some things become possibilities whilst in a thinking outside of the box mind frame; people who could not meet due to distance now find they can, and people who have childcare responsibilities find they can easily join a group from their own home.

In November I presented at the launch of the Disability History Month which had the theme: Access – how far have we come? How far have we to go? After listening to all the contributions I realised that the fundamental issue lies in attitude.  Disabled people need to be valued as people, so that society can’t imagine life without us. Access would suddenly not be an issue.

For me this has played out on a small scale in relation to my schooling.  All winter term I requested from my school that I joined lessons virtually, and there was a plethora of different reasons why this was not possible.  In the meantime, my sister’s school, which I am not on the roll for, heard of my plight and decided to help.  So, since November I have joined my cohort there for live English lessons from an iPad on the table.  The only boy in an all-girls year group.  Using the chat function I have been able to contribute to the discussion, and more importantly, I have been made to feel completely included.  It took a desire to include and compassion, coupled with a can do attitude, and then the barriers could be overcome.

None of this comes as just an access issue, there are far deeper consequences to thinking out of the box.  In a study published by the Office for National Statistics it was found that disabled people are four times more likely to feel lonely than non-disabled people, and have significantly poorer mental health.[1] Maybe going forward we will all be more compassionate to those for whom access is an issue.  But further than that, society and communities are richer with everyone included.

This is the year that we have all been forced to find new solutions, and we’ve discovered that when we value something it can continue in a new and sometimes improved way. As we crawl out of lockdown, let’s all take this new mind set with us. Life is richer when we all think out of the box.

[1] Outcomes for disabled people in the UK: 2020 Office for National Statistics 2020

8 thoughts on “Thinking Out of the Box

  1. Thank you Jonathan. Returning to’normal’, accessibility and thinking in new ways are some of the things I have been pondering in relation to church recently, so I value your insights.

    Thanks for yet another of your amazing ‘backwards’ poems Jonathan. It is a very powerful enactment of being challenged to re-assess our thinking. Have you ever written about how you go about writing these kind of poems (or perhaps know of someone else who has articulated this well?). I ask because my 8 year old son has been absolutely gobsmacked by the power of this method of writing, and I would love for him to think about how he could go about having a go himself.

    So glad to hear you can engage with English lessons. You are a great writer. Please keep writing. It is such a blessing to those of us who hear you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Kate,
      Thank you for your encouragement. For the backwards poems I look at someone else’s backward poems and think of my own statements to put in instead of theirs. For this one I read the poem ‘Anorexia’. The use and placing of the word ‘that’ is important. Let me know how he gets on.

      All the best, Jonathan


  2. As ever Jonathan I am left with much to think about and I thank God that I am coming to know him better through the wisdom of your words. God bless you always. Trish xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this Jonathan,I was just wondering if you would like to meet my son who is just starting to learn to read.He is only 11 but he is experiencing some of the difficulties you did at first.We live in Somerset.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Jonathan

    Once again I have been very impressed with your Message (Thinking Out of the Box ) and please continue to keep up your good work

    Best wishes to you and your Family who unfortunately I have not been able to see for some years. but luckily I am still in touch with your Grand Parents

    John Ritchie

    Liked by 1 person

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