All Lives Matter

All Lives Matter

I grew up in a family that accepted people of different color as all part of the same human race. We were taught to care for those less fortunate than ourselves and that all life held great value. God created the heavens and earth and filled them with diverse and wonderful creatures.  But mankind was specially created in His own image, male and female. God breathed life into them and they became living souls.  (Gen. 2)  God also gave us free will and the ability to love and be loved. Animals were given to us for food but it has never been acceptable to kill another human being.

Protesters in our streets are carrying signs that say, “Black Lives Matter” and I agree they do!  But Asian, White and Native American lives matter too. Unfortunately in our society and around the world there are many castes, hierarchies and prejudices that pigeon hole a person into what they can do or become.  We in our own wisdom decide if life is valuable or not in quality and quantity of years.

The very definition of infanticide is the crime of killing a child within a year of birth yet we have legislators that feel it’s ok to kill a living infant in a failed abortion attempt or “partially” birthed. How cold, cruel and unfeeling we have become to life!  Eighteen percent of pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) in 2017 ended in abortion – that’s approximately 862,320 in the USA.  Didn’t their lives matter?  Or do we think somehow they don’t matter because they were an accident, a mistake, unplanned and unwanted.

A well beloved surgeon I worked with learned that I had a son with disabilities. He said, “Well, you’re a better person than I am. My wife and I decided that if we knew anything would be wrong with our baby, we would abort.”  I smiled and said, “It’s hard sometimes but so worth it. We have gone places we never would have dreamed of and have met the most amazing people.”  Our son’s life matters and so do the lives of his cognitive and physically disabled coworkers and friends.

Everyone enjoyed the story of P.T. Barnum glamorized in the musical “The Greatest Showman” because “ it fosters hope in dreamers and a sense of inclusion in outcasts, projecting a message that is desperately needed in today’s society. Barnum saw possibilities and beauty in the misfits and outcasts of society and gave them a sense of family.”*** The movie crosses barriers of all kinds and the powerful lyrics to “This is Me” topped the charts. Why?  I believe we want a world of inclusion and peace deep down in our hearts. We want to belong and feel like our life matters.                                                  **quote from Jen Piekarz review

God Himself declares all life to be sacred and planned for a purpose.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15  My  frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.            Psalms 139:13-16 (ESV)

The gospel is the most inclusive doctrine in the world and has an open invitation for all. While Jesus was on earth he lived the greatest example of sacrificial love, compassion and inclusion.  He healed untouchables (ex. lepers), ate with “sinners” of all kinds and hung out with a mixed group that included uneducated fishermen as well as a tax collector. He was not afraid or too proud to speak with half breed Samaritans or Roman Centurions.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life     John 3:16 (ESV)

 Jesus came for ALL. If we could love each other like Jesus there would be no more hatred, inequality or dismissing people as less than. Bullying would cease and understanding would increase.  If only we could grasp the truth that ALL LIVES MATTER.

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A simple song I learned as a child says it all.

Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Red and yellow, black and white

They are precious in His sight

Jesus loves the children of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discrimination vs. Inclusion

Discrimination vs. Inclusion

Our media has recently been flooded with anger and protests against racism and inequality and we as a nation should be outraged by what happened to George Floyd. But as a mother of an adult son with cognitive and physical challenges I mused that there is always one group that is still left out of the conversation. Even the unborn have a voice protesting for their right to live a full life.

People with physical and cognitive disabilities are still the most marginalized group in the world.  The definition of marginalize is to treat a person or group as unimportant, insignificant or of lower status within a society. When we assume someone will act a certain way based on stereotypes about their identity – aspects such as race, gender, sexuality, disability. Discrimination against disabled people is both subtle and overt and often widely accepted and integrated into our society.

Raising one son with mild cerebral palsy and a daughter with dyslexia we have learned much about acceptance, advocating, educating, perseverance and inclusion.   My daughters’ playmate asked me, “What’s wrong with his feet?” pointing to my son wearing the heavy leather and steel braces when he was little. Not an insult – just a question. I explained that he needed special shoes to help him walk and that was enough. When my daughter was five, she came in from playing with two neighbor boys and asked, “Mom, Danny is black and we are white. Right?” “Yes”, I answered as she ran back to play.  Children see differences but learn prejudice or to marginalize and exclude.

I would highly recommend watching the movie “Wonder” the story of a 10 year old boy born with facial deformities. He was home-schooled due to his many surgeries but his parents feel it is time for him to join regular school and all that entails. The book is not written about an actual person but from a true experience of the author. When her children were small they saw a girl with a facial deformity at an ice cream store. One of her sons began to cry so she just turned and left in a hurry. The author was so mad at herself for reacting that way she wrote the book for 8-12 year olds to learn about prejudice, bullying, acceptance and friendship.

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There are stories of marginalization in the Bible too as there were many reasons to be considered an outcast from society and often disability was thought to be a punishment. Sometimes this attitude remains in present day society.

Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” 3 Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.    John 9:1-3 (MSG)  –  The New Living Translation states, “so the power of God can be seen through him.”

While raising all three of our children we have “looked to see what God would do” and we have been blessed and amazed.  We learned that some people just need to learn differently and need different tools to aid them – our daughter actually has the highest IQ in our family and earned a Masters degree in Special education. We have learned to see people and encourage abilities through sports thanks to involvement with Special Olympics. Our son sings bass and is included in our church choir on his own merit.  I believe that because we have always looked to see what God can do – he was given the opportunity to sing the National Anthem at Fenway Park on Special Olympics night a few years ago. Yes, I am bragging but also praising God for something we could never dream of.  I also realize that this is not a reality for the majority of persons living with disabilities. Daily life can be very difficult.

I am not an expert on diversity or inclusion but we can eliminate discrimination by changing our own perspectives first. It starts with you and me. Instead of seeing race, color or disability do we see a person first? The golden rule is to “do unto others as you would have them do to you” and if  variety (diversity) is the spice of life, I can guarantee that inclusion will greatly enrich your life.

 

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Choose to Include

Choose to Include

SO5othAnnivSpecial Olympics is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary and June 21st, 2018 will be the “Global Day of Inclusion”. Through the power of sports – people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities,skills and success.The power and joy of sport, shifts focus to what the athletes CAN do, not what they can’t. Attention to disabilities fades away.

“When a society misunderstands and underestimates the capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities, opportunities are lost. Jobs that might be done go undone. chances for friendships that might be sparked pass by. And respect that might be won is lost.”  (quote from Special Olympics website)

revs_bfag_groupRemyThe Special Olympics organization understands the odds their athletes must overcome and the barriers they face everyday. They have done much to fight negative stereotypes and misconceptions by raising awareness and providing educational experiences. They have also been focusing on Unified Teams – which gets people with and without  ID to play on team sports.

Oddly enough many churches do not include people with intellectual disabilities in their services and programs. There may be limited access and accommodations to even attend the church building. People fear “odd” behavior and may not feel comfortable around those who don’t fit in with the “norm”.  But through telling a parable, Jesus taught that is incorrect thinking.

…Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’22 After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’23 So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.’”      Luke 14:21-24 (NLT)

There is plenty of room in God’s house for ALL and they are welcome. Our family has JFsingingparticipated in Special Olympics for over 20 years. Our 30 yr.old son Jeremy has cerebral palsy and participates in three seasons of sport and my husband is a coach.  But we have learned about God’s unconditional love for us and for all people through an organization called “Joni and Friends”.  They have educational programs for churches and family retreats for families affected by disability.

At Family Retreat, there is no can’t.  WE sing, worship, do activities – boating, crafts, dancing, even rock-wall climbing – with people of all abilities. Volunteers go out of their way to make a way for all to participate.

This is where I have witnessed unconditional love and acceptance.  People who love God and see others through His eyes are truly blessed. Does it make the circumstances of life easier or go away? No. We encourage, support and pray for each other. There is a true JOY that fills the heart.

As THE CHURCH – we need to choose to include!

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