I think fewer of us expect kindness today. Many of us expect more of the opposite, actually. We expect to hear unkind words, bullying in our schools, and hatefulness on the news and social media.
But then, a gem leaks through. An all too infrequent story of kindness is reported. And it goes viral. Suddenly, media outlets dripping with hate and sarcasm take a momentary break to offer a glimmer of hope.
A child with disabilities is running a race with his classmates. He starts strong, but physical limitations can’t keep up with his desires. He starts to slow down; he struggles. His teacher shows up beside him, cheering him on and running with him. Beautifully, his classmates join him, too, not only cheering him on, but uniting themselves with his pace, crossing the finish line together. A ray of hope in a world of selfishness.
While two minute video clips enlarge our hearts for a moment, all too often that’s where it ends. The next day, we are in a restaurant and a nearby individual with special needs isn’t quite as coordinated with their utensils as we are. Or we are sitting in the movie theater and a person behind us is making unintentionally disrupting noises, interrupting our own entertainment.
How do our hearts respond? Are we brimming with the same compassion we felt watching the heartwarming media clip? Are we compelled to cheer them along with the same zeal as they coordinate their brains and their muscles to accomplish miraculous tasks that we so easily take for granted? Or are we annoyed that we can’t enjoy our meal or movie that we’ve spent good money on? Our delusions of magnanimous living can be exposed in their ugly rawness, leaving us either to defend and blame shift or to confess and repent. I have seen this happen on more than one occasion, particularly since God blessed our family with a child with Down Syndrome.
My daughter was created with Down Syndrome. My daughter was created with Down Syndrome for me. My daughter was created with Down Syndrome for you. When her big, brown eyes capture yours and see into your soul, you are changed. You see beauty in a way you never have before. When she closes her eyes and raises her arms to sing a worship song in a restaurant, God has sent that for you — to remind you that we can worship Him anywhere. When she expresses her frustration because her muscles are tired from lifting her fork to her mouth to feed herself, that is for you. A movement that is so easy for us, but one day may not be, can help us grow in compassion because we have expressed our frustration, too, and probably over far lesser things.
My daughter was created with Down Syndrome by a holy, awesome God who makes no mistakes – not even adding an extra chromosome to her cells. She was created with Down Syndrome to glorify the Almighty God in His spectacular, incomprehensible plan for the universe. She was created by a compassionate, Heavenly Father who wanted to change me and the hearts of family and friends and strangers toward all people with special needs, to see people, not disabilities, and to become better people ourselves.
What Jenny does among people is truly astounding. In a restaurant full of diners, separated by tables, Jenny brings unity. In an elevator, where social constructs have you stand inches from a stranger in complete silence and deluded isolation, Jenny, in seconds, creates community, laughter, and human eye contact that builds and strengthens the soul. I need that. And so do you.
Had God not blessed us with Jenny, our family would have continued on just fine, but I’m glad He did. What we discovered was that we really weren’t fine. Our eyes have been opened to a worldview that is better and grander and lovelier than the one to which we had confined ourselves. Because God created Jenny, we are irrevocably different people – and so is Jack from the restaurant, and Lisa from our neighborhood, and the UPS driver, and that guy in line at the grocery, and so many others who have learned that “disability” isn’t scary or ugly or something to avoid.
I’ve had the thought that when I get to heaven, I won’t be surprised to find that our heavenly bodies have not 46 chromosomes, but 47, and that all along, what society deemed as broken and worthless, was really a reflection of the very heart of God and His love for His redeemed.
Does it have to be an extra chromosome? No. But whatever that element is, that special something that can bring out the best in us, it’s going to be spectacular.