February 18, 2013

"Different Like Me"

People are people.  That is one message that God has been drilling into me over the past two years.  We try to throw up walls like cultural differences, different tastes in music, food, art, politics and religion.  But if you sit down for a REAL conversation, where you REALLY listen, you find someone just like yourself, with worries, hopes, disappointments and victories.  And I love listening to stories and seeing the similarities.

I guess God has been showing that to my kids, too.  He started when He had us take in a gentleman from our church who was down on his luck.  He had some health issues, he looked funny, he talked funny, and he would never be considered as a contestant on Jeopardy.  It took our kids a little bit to get used to him.  At the end of the time, my oldest daughter commented that she was glad he had stayed with us because she realized that people who look different aren't really all that different.  Score one for God.

Last week, we took half a day to take advantage of discount tickets at a mall-based aquarium with a few other families.  One of the families has a son with Down's Syndrome.  Last year, she and her husband had decided that public school would be a better option for him and had such a horrible experience with the public school, they pulled him out again.  I had met him once and would consider him relatively high functioning.  His speech is affected a little, but in the short class we all had signed up to take, he kept himself fairly quiet and unobtrusive with just a little bit of help from a friend and his mother.  My oldest daughter had a blast with him after the class and she treated him as she would any other child.  As we were getting ready to leave, the boys mother pulled me aside and told me she had to talk to me.  She told me that she was thanking my daughter for how kindly she treated her son and my daughter's response was something like, "I like him because he is different, just like me."  It had blown her away, and me, too, with gratitude for her perspective.

For those of you who have never met her, she doesn't have Down's Syndrome or any other handicap.  No one would notice her passing her in the street.  Unless she was mugging with one of her overdramatic expressions.  Or using her Smeagol voice.  Or trying out one of her  new voices, which sounds like a squeaky door.  Or talking Gandalf style, which inevitably involves the phrase "You!  Shall!  Not!  Pass!!!!"  That is how she is different and she recognizes that she is different.   So all she sees in this little boy with Down's Syndrome is a boy who is different like her from "the crowd"  but not in the same way as she is different.  And she revels in those differences.  This was one of my earliest goals in homeschooling, to let them be who God made them to be without feeling as if they were weird or stupid, which is the social lessons a lot of kids receive in public schools.  And God is gracious to answer my prayers at least for one child that He has helped me train.  I pray that this quality has been ingrained in her so deeply that the world and its influence will never drive it out and that she will know that people are people, created in God's image and loved by Him more than they can imagine.

Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  Colossians 3:11-13

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