By Chris Grantham
Cocoa Bean Press
Before receiving a copy of this book, I was only vaguely aware of Mark Grantham – the severely disabled cerebral palsy sufferer whose “office” is one and a half square metres of footpath on one of Auckland’s busiest shopping strips. From there he sells chocolate bars for charity to help Third World children less fortunate than himself.
As a result, I looked forward to Mark’s story for two reasons. Firstly, it was obviously going to be the story of an amazing, selfless Christian for whom a disability was no obstacle to helping others. And secondly it was written by his dad, Chris, the author of my favourite Bible translation – the slightly irreverant Kiwi Bible.
On reading Mark’s story (which at 122 pages doesn’t take long to get through) I certainly wasn’t disappointed, but was a bit surprised. What I wasn’t expecting was Chris’ refreshingly blunt description of what it is like to grow up with a disability in New Zealand and what it is like for family and caregivers.
In fact, there’s not that much in the book about Mark’s actual experiences on the Broadway footpath. But there is an informative account of Mark’s ongoing battle to try to live as normal a life as possible in the face of obstinate bureaucracy, lack of funding and ignorance.
Sometimes it is the very organisations and people who are supposedly there to help Mark who put up the obstacles. And Chris is willing to name names.
But there are heroes and they are also sometimes a surprise. We tend to deride our elected politicians, but in Mark’s case they are often the people who cut through the bureaucracy and make things happen.
Most importantly, though, this is the story of an amazing individual. Mark’s courage, determination and humour leap from every page. His ability to disarm the rich, famous and powerful by simply inviting them home “for a cup of tea” is a delight.
Personally I have no experiences of disability, but having read Chris’ book I now, for the first time, have an inkling of just what living with a disability is like in New Zealand. If this book does the same for others, then Mark and Chris have performed a great service for this country.
So far Mark hasn’t managed to achieve his ambition of meeting the Queen, but I’m sure when he does he will invite her home for a cup of tea.
What’s more, I’m sure she’ll accept.
– Duncan Pardon