“You don’t know what you don’t know.” Are the words that came from my best friend’s mouth directed at a teary eyed me who was standing on the tennis court opposite her with my hand over my mouth.
I said a word that hurt her to the core of her being. The kind of pain that sends a shock to your gut and makes you stutter your next few words, turning your face flush.
She shook her head and waved her hand as if to say, “give me a minute and I’ll be over it.” I apologized too much, you know what I mean? The kind when you keep saying I’m sorry and the other person really just needs you to shut the hell up and drop it. But you can’t because you feel so horribly guilty…
Even when she had long forgiven me, and she had because she’s really good at that, I still brought myself to the Altar for weeks asking for mercy…and I received it. Finally.
But I was changed. Permanently. And I have never used that word again. When I hear other people use it, and they do…way too often…a piece of me cringes and I silently whisper a prayer of forgiveness…again.
I know you want me to tell you the word I used. I will…but you have most likely in your mind come up with at least 10 highly offensive words wondering if that’s what I said. I’m curious…did you come up with the word “retarded”?
Mostly I hear people say something very similar to what I said, it sounds like this…”Did you hear about the new rule change the school put into place? That’s just retarded. Who decided that?” Or. “Can you believe she said that to him? She’s a retard.”
Neither of those is OK. But somehow they are common place in our society. You might not even blink an eye at that word…what’s the big deal?
He is the big deal.
My friend’s son.
Her first born child.
Who was given to her by the same God who gave my children to me…but hers has special needs and is classified as retarded. I have streams rolling down my cheeks at the wonder of him. He has stolen my heart.
Retarded: People who are slow or limited in mental development. Characterized by limited intellectual understanding or awareness, emotional development or academic progress.
If this is the description of your flesh and blood, the word can no longer be thrown carelessly around. And for the love of the God who hand spun him…do not use it in a derogatory nature…as a slam, slander or dig to describe something or someone you have distaste for.
When I pull into her drive way he is there standing in the window…with his little white dog in one hand he runs to my car and greets me with the biggest smile and high five. “I go with you Mrs. Lee. I get in you car.” He jumps in and we put in an Elmo DVD…we laugh and sing and clap at the ridiculous red character he loves so much.
At fifteen years old he is a diaper wearing, Elmo watching full of nothing but joy and peace in his precious heart child of God…
I have decided that special needs children will experience the fullness of heaven in a much greater capacity than those of us who are considered normal could ever fathom.
I see Jesus Christ in his eyes.
I witness Jesus Christ through his life.
He is not the lesser…He is the chosen. Just wait and see…
I now know. And I want to be a part of educating you…the one who doesn’t know. Your words are painful. They hurt hearts of mamas who care for babies that never grow up.
To put it in perspective for you…if you are a Christian…when you are around someone who uses the Lords name in vain like, “That GD dog crapped in my yard again.” Now you see? The name of someone you are in love with being mistreated…it needs to stop. Or all those “Your Mama's so fat” jokes that make people reallllly hot…am I making it clear? Or if you are an African American and you hear someone use the N word. Or if you have a loved one who is gay or a lesbian and you hear some one describe them as a faggot.
Did I hit enough nerves there? Are your ears red? Mine are...I despise bully's.
The special needs community is a very forgiving one. They aren’t walking around with a chip on their shoulder angry at the world. They extend more grace than anyone I know…perhaps because they need grace more than anyone I know.
You don’t know what you don’t know. You just don’t. But if you hung in there with me for this long post…you can’t UN-know.
Would you simply find a different word? Help me stop the unnecessary meanness. And if you feel lead…would you do me one more favor?
It has come to my attention through a series of no good horrible events that I will save for a possible later post…that many…let me say that again, MANY local Church’s are not accepting Special Needs children into their doors on Sunday morning. They “aren’t equip.” Or they “Simply don’t have the financial resources to care for these children.” (I am rolling my eyes as you hand out your free coffee and donuts and walk on the marble floor.)
The Church. The Body of Christ. The hands and feet of a crucified and risen Jesus whose VERY message was to care for the broken and hurting and needy…. are closing the door on the families who need rest and worship perhaps the most.
No... this is not OK with me and I am banking on the fact that it is also absolutely not OK with you either. I can’t personally tackle every single Church…would you make it you business to call yours and find out if they accept special needs children? Unconditionally? Even the visitors? Will you dig deep and look at the departments “policies”? Are they just as welcome as the children with smocked dresses and giant hair bows who sing and recite Bible verses and sit still for the lesson?
You don’t know what you don’t know…
As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
He also said to the man who invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, least they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Then The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, The Lord?”