You have heard me share many times from the pulpit about my amazing son, Alexander, who has cerebral palsy and developmental disability. Not only is he the light and joy of my life, he has opened my eyes to the able-ism that is alive and well in our culture and the need for greater support and inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in our society.
I’ve shared about large organizations like the Special Olympics that do so much to promote inclusion of such people, vastly improving their lives. And donating or volunteering for such an organization is a wonderful thing to do. However, I want to suggest that we can also help people on a much smaller and more intimate level, in our own lives and within our own neighborhoods and communities.
A few weeks ago, my next door neighbor sent me a text message telling me that she and her husband were wondering if Alexander would like to have a little job taking their garbage and recycling cans out to the curb each week for garbage day and returning them to their yard the following day. For this service, they would pay Alexander $10 per week. Paco and I discussed it and then talked to Alexander about it, and voila! Alexander has his first job!
It may seem like a small thing, but this beautiful gesture on the part of my neighbors is the type of thing that goes a very long way toward helping people with developmental disabilities feel included, feel needed, and develop self-esteem. Alexander takes great pride each week in doing his “job” and although he has little interest in or understanding of money, you can see how pleased he is when he gets his envelope each week with his $10 bill in it.
This Sunday we will be exploring the parable of the Good Samaritan and asking ourselves the question, “Who is my neighbor?” And so I invite all of you to look around your own lives and see if there is someone in your own neighborhood or community you could give a little boost to in a similar way to what my neighbors have done for Alexander. It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture. Like Mother Theresa said, “We can do small things with great kindness.”
For example, if you shop at Safeway, they often have folks with developmental disabilities bagging groceries. Maybe give them an extra “thank you” and let them know they’re doing a good job. If you encounter someone with an intellectual disability while out and about, make sure to look at them as you would look at any other person. Don’t look away. Don’t ignore them. Make them feel seen, counted, valued. For these folks, too, are our neighbors.