Isaac is an eighth grader at the local Christian school. Derek is my grandson. Isaac and Derek are friends – really good friends! Derek walks up and down the halls at school on his two legs; Isaac rides on a special wheeled cart designed for him, complete with a breathing machine and other various tubes needed to sustain him.
It’s clear to both of them that they are both just fellow kids on a journey – going to football games, going to McDonald’s after school on Friday, talking about girls (they’ll kill me for writing that!), and looking forward to high school when Derek can drive Isaac’s fancy van! And hey, boys will be boys – I’ve heard reports of the boys hiding Isaac in the hallways from his full time nurse and sneaking a French fry into his mouth so that he can know what it tastes like (Isaac is tube fed).
Isaac’s family hasn’t sheltered him from the world, because more than anything, he just wants to be included. I wish I was as good as Derek is at that. Derek sits by Isaac’s cart on the sideline at the football game in the worst of weather. He talks sports, life, and girls with Isaac. They talk about high school and future hopes and dreams.
And it’s not just Derek that includes Isaac. The school they attend has done an amazing job making sure Isaac can be included, from making sure his cart can get around, to including him in all classes, small groups, choir, etc. Because Isaac’s voice is weak, a fellow classmate holds a microphone to his mouth so that his voice can be heard during the choir concert. The school, the friends, and Isaac – it is inspiring to say the least.
So if it is such a joy and blessing, why is it so hard for the church to include those with special needs? Is it money? It does cost money to make facilities accessible to all. Is it intentionality? We are just too busy and we forget. Is it fear? We are often afraid of what we do not understand.
There are things we, the church, can do. How about giving the best seats up front to those in wheelchairs and carts like Isaacs' so they don’t have to look around others or try to see through a crowd? How about giving them a microphone once in awhile so that we can hear their voice? How about including them in our praise teams? How about letting them read scripture or pray?
And please, let’s make sure our children’s classrooms are accessible, our youth group meeting place is accessible, and our church entryways are accessible. It’s not only for those with special needs, it’s so that their friends can be with them the way friends need to be.
We are all on this journey together. As those who gather to represent the church of Jesus Christ, let’s listen to the voice that says, “I just want to be included”.