Charity starts in the parking lot

Opening with a point of understanding that college is more than just the education provided in the classroom, but the intersection of all facets, let’s begin by taking that understanding to the parking lot.

In the pursuit of this article, feedback and comments were sought regarding unauthorized use of handicapped parking spaces as well as the striped lines. Some feedback reiterated federal and state law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act. Security officer C.J. Sholler said,“If you see someone parked in a handicap spot without a tag, or the striped area, please let us know.”  Bruce Vaughn, vice president emeritus and director of capital projects cited Legal Beagle, but imparted his own perspective saying, “If you are ambulatory and not legally identified as walking disabled, show a little compassion and humanity by not stealing the space dedicated to  truly walking disabled individuals. This includes the striped spaces beside the handicap spots as that is the operational zone for disabled people to manipulate their assistance apparatus.”

When people illegally park their scooters, motorcycles, or cars in these spaces, what are they saying to the people who are legally authorized to park in those space? When using placards issued to another person, what are we saying to our community members? Virginia Wesleyan University is a private school that receives federal money, which makes the school responsible for following federal laws. These laws extend beyond academics and athletics to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Federal money increased the accountability of all academic institutions in the years past regarding Title IX. Setting federal regulations aside for a moment, college is a time of growth and maturity.

As students at Virginia Wesleyan, we are ambassadors in the community on and off campus. We say we want people to feel welcome and respected and should be the epitome of hospitality. Virginia Wesleyan has frequent opportunities to discuss the academics of inclusivity and diversity. Are we living our inclusivity? Few who attend or work at Virginia Wesleyan University need the blue parking spots. How many students have grandparents, parents, siblings, or even children who need the accommodation? A person may be less ambulatory, does that make them less welcome or respected?

The parking lot is the proverbial welcome mat. VWU, as one among many colleges planted by Christian organizations, might be better guided in reading Zechariah 6:15, which reads, “Those who are far away will come and help to build the temple of the LORD, and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. This will happen if you diligently obey the LORD your God.”  Using a cliché of modern translation “…build it and they will come…,” attributed to the movie Field of Dreams.

A person’s external package may not be pleasing to the common eye. Most of our lives we are pieces of coal, striving to become our inner diamond. How can we become that diamond, without challenges? Disabilities cross all demographics, especially senior or military students, aging alumni, visiting family members,  and potential students.

The able-bodied are not in need of handicap parking spots, though parking spots have been awarded, based on accomplishments. How should those with a different degree of physical prowess be received? One has to ask, would someone with the intellectual capacity of Stephen Hawking, who suffers from paralysis, feel welcome at Virginia Wesleyan University?

Sabrina Lemons