Handicapped

Preface: In theological talks it has been said that if you don’t say everything about everything, you must not hold to a particular idea or doctrinal point. I know there is much more that could be said, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe/act on certain things. Thanks.

In the previous post I mentioned my current job as a TA in one of the local public school systems. Growing up and attending Faith Heritage (a small Christian school in the city of Syracuse), I never was aware of TA’s since the school was so small. There were teachers for every subject area, most of whom taught multiple grade levels to a variety of students. There wasn’t much of a resource room or outside help for students with learning disabilities, which must have had made it difficult for those students. Since there were no TA’s for assistance there wasn’t a visible population of special education students, let alone the severely handicapped students I have worked with over the past 5 years.

I have worked with a spectrum of kids ranging from those who were non-verbal and couldn’t care for themselves in any manner to those who were autistic and seemed “normal.” My first day as a TA was at BOCES during their summer school program. My room was populated with children who were severely autistic. I remember the room being filled with children and silence. It seemed odd but they were all in their own little worlds. Some would recite tv shows verbatim, while others didn’t speak at all. Needless to say, it all seemed daunting since I was a little kid from FHS who had never entered into the real world of autism and special needs.

Kids are starers. People watching is a national past time for kids (and somewhat immature adults). I never really noticed how much people of all ages stare at handicapped children though. Forget the mental disabilities, those with glaringly obvious physical hardships get ogled the worst. There is a weird discomfort that comes with the initial contact one has with someone so different than themselves. Pity, fear, and confusion mix to create a standoffish attitude at first. This is what happened with me.

Yet when you get to know these kids, they have some of the most joyous and innocent personalities. They shine in ways “normal” people never can. The smiles through constant pain and frustration of being the way they are and living the lives they have been given are the beams of hope that make us realize how pitiful our petty gripes can be. They are the marginalized, unseen, and easily targeted for ridicule. I have been on the giving end of many of those. We do these things to those we don’t understand or perhaps better said, to those we don’t love.

I realized awhile ago one of the reasons why I love these kids: they remind me of me. For all of the obvious difficulties and handicaps these kids live through, they are constant reminders of the state of all of us. They just happen to capture the brokeness of all of us in a way we all can see. The reason they remind me of me is because I am so handicapped and broken in my heart, thoughts, and actions. I cannot live outside of desperate dependence. I am incapable of doing things on my own. I am handicapped; I need help.

Community forms around dependence. Unfortunately, for the handicapped they have been relegated to their own communities outside of the normative ones. Yet all the while, they shine and remind me of the beauty that comes from broken individuals relying upon each other for life. And this is what we need to bring out of captivity and into the forefronts of our minds and experiences. We are these people masked in smiles and delusions of autonomous individuality. We need a community of love to care for us and bring us into contact with life.

This is the message of Jesus. He broke into a world of broken, handicapped people to bring them the love of his community: the Trinity. He came to make us whole. He came to heal us. He came to make everything that went wrong, right.And he did this by becoming one of us and dying as one of us.

The scary thing is that he left this task to the Church as well. Not by ourselves, because we’re still handicapped, but with him praying for us and his breath (Spirit) living in us. We need to open our eyes to this.

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