On Friday, I got the opportunity to go with my oldest son on a mission day to a local school to help with their field day. This school has a lot of very young children and some with physical and/or mental disabilities. This was right up my alley and completely in my comfort zone, but as I watched a group of 7th and 8th grade students interact with them, I was struck with how uncomfortable many of the teenagers were with the disabilities they were faced with. Some of the kids were in wheelchairs, some had walkers, one little girl was missing both arms, some had mental disabilities. Some of the teenagers went right up to these kids and struck up conversations with them. Others would interact with some encouragement. Many did not even look interested in the "regular" kids, much less the kids with disabilities.
It got me to thinking about why some kids act so differently/stand offish/afraid around those with disabilities and why others are so quick to talk to them. I think a lot of has to do with their exposure and examples. It seems like we have always had friends around us that have a child with some kind of disability - some have been less severe and others more so. We have always encouraged our children to talk to them, treat them with the respect they deserve, be kind to them, help them with whatever their needs are, and share God's love with them. Being friends with those with disabilities has brought countless blessings in our lives and has taught us to focus on something other than ourselves. I think too often, our society does not give people with disabilities a chance ... to do anything. They write them off as useless and that they have no value. What a shame! God says each one of us is valuable in His eyes. He has a plan and a purpose for each one of us.
Matthew 10:29-31 "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
As I watched these teenagers, I prayed that they would each learn the value that God puts on life - every life. And that they would also realize the blessings that come from knowing someone that is different from themselves.
How do you and your kids react to those that are "different" from themselves? Are you modeling love and acceptance or fear and indifference? I pray that you and your children will realize the value of each individual and take each opportunity to share God's love with them.