My kids and I (loudly) made our way into Target. I got them the dollar popcorn — mainly because it keeps them occupied while I get what I need. Then we went over to the girls’ section.
As I flipped through the clearance rack I noticed a boy in a wheelchair near the end-cap looking at the X-Box games. His mom sat close in her own wheelchair, encouraging him as he struggled to put an unwanted game back on the shelf. But he dropped it. And he physically couldn’t bend down to get it. Neither could she.
flickr photo credit
Moving passed differences into love.
I have to admit, I typically find myself tongue-tied around people with special needs. I feel like I don’t know what to say and then I say dumb things out of ignorance. And then it feels like a pink elephant dropped into the room and I want to hide.
So I recently decided to ask for advice. Because I’m of the mindset that if I don’t know something, then I need to just ask. Not in a rude, demanding way, but in a “I’m really not that smart and need help” kind of way.
So I polled two friends who have children with special needs. And they gave me some really good advice on what to do, and not do, and what to say, and not say. And I thought I would share a couple of key things. Because I figure if I feel all fumble-y then maybe someone else does too. And we can all learn together how to better bless those around us.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:7
I asked these moms individually and privately but they were in agreement. The number one thing? These moms want people to *see* their children. Really see them. They want others to notice, not ignore. To include, not avoid. Whether it’s in a conversation or a game at the park, these moms desire for people to invite their children in.
Granted, depending on the child, he or she may not be able to converse or able to play exactly like some of the other kids, but letting them know that we see, and that we want to interact, reinforces their God-given value. God. Given. Value.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
They also both warned of the same thing. “Whatever you do, don’t ask, ‘What’s wrong with him (or her)?'” And for them both to warn of the same thing, tells me that people have often asked that question. Lord, help us.
Words affect. To ask “What’s wrong with him?” implies that his or her struggles are a mistake. That somehow this precious child slipped out of God’s hands and something went terribly “wrong.”
But that doesn’t flow well with my theology. God is sovereign. He knits children together in their mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13, 15) Purposefully. He breathes life into each of us. And if He allows a child to be born with challenges, He does so with infinite reason. He works absolutely all things together for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 6:28)
We need His truths seared onto our souls. We need His truths stirring in our spirits. Because His truths are rooted in His love. And when love fills us, love spills out of us.
That boy in Target? I went over to him with my kids following behind me. I picked up the fallen video and spoke to him, “You don’t want this one?” His mom said no and thank you. I put it back on the shelf. Then I looked him in the eyes — the eyes His Maker crafted — and I smiled.
I wonder what plans God has for him.
Fill me, Lord…
How have you reconciled this struggle? Or am I alone on this one?