Thursday, February 6, 2014

Special Needs & Unique Circumstances

Recently I have read some incredibly poignant blog posts about kids with special needs. Each of them brought me to tears for different reasons: gratitude for parents who speak up for their children, compassion for children and families who have to face such uphill battles, outrage at the insensitivity people can exhibit, awe at obstacles overcome, and deep respect for parents who step up and play the hand they've been dealt for all it's worth. Then the pictured quote appeared in my Facebook feed. What follows are some of the ideas these things generated. No prescriptions, promises, or preemptive strikes, just some rumination.

Some kids needs are evident - they use wheel chairs, crutches, braces, hearing aids, coke bottle glasses, or sign language. Other kids don't display their needs until they explode with rage and frustration or dissolve into tears when the stress pushes them over the edge. Other kids try to get noticed because they need some attention, but we usually just label them as behavior problems. Some kids are having to function as adults because they are often on their own or have an impaired parent. Other kids may be having a hard time learning or socializing because they are chronically hungry.

Perhaps if we all saw every person as special (that is unique) and acknowledged that every one has needs (circumstances and obstacles) we would stop seeing kids with special needs a weird or different or to be avoided and start seeing them as kids. We would recognize them as people with unique circumstances, which really applies to all of us, and we would all have better ideas of how to welcome, nurture, sustain and respect them.

As I mused about the issues around special needs, I couldn't help but think of how Jesus encountered people: no stereotypes, no assumptions about what was needed or wanted, no commentary on appearances or genetics. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount seems to recognize that each of us has unique circumstances, and reminds us that we are all blessed in and by those circumstances.

In the Spark Children's Bible (best children's Bible EVER!!!) Jesus sayings, the Beatitudes, are rendered this way:

  • People who feel hopeless are blessed because God will give them heaven.
  • Sad people are blessed because God will help them feel better.
  • People who don't have many things are blessed because God will give them everything they need.
  • People who want to follow God's ways are blessed because God will help them.
  • People who treat others with kindness are blessed because God will treat them with kindness.
  • People who know what is right in their heart are blessed because God will be with them.
  • People who make peace are blessed because they will be called God's children.
  • People who are hurt because they try to do what is right are blessed because God will give them heaven.

I think that sometimes we get lost in our fear that this unique circumstance could happen to us or that we might do or say the wrong thing. In our fear we isolate the other person, and also isolate ourselves. Jesus words become reassuring "God will help them feel better. . . God will give them everything they need." We are not called to meet needs, that is God's job. We are called to love our neighbor. That means letting them be who and how they are, and loving them - whatever that looks like in their unique circumstances.

Often our kids are better at this than we are. They don't have as much fear and so their natural curiosity leads them to the right answers about how to love the other person. We adults shush them and teach them to be afraid of differences, to worry about doing the right thing, to feel entitled to special treatment. "People who know what is right in their heart are blessed because God will be with them." God is very much with your children. Let God be with you too as you parent them, no matter what their special needs or unique circumstances are.

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