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This article is part of our Breaking Barriers Spring 2022. This installment features articles on  several young adults with disabilities ranging from tumors to limb differences to processing disorders and lupus who tell their stories of what it has been like for them. If you'd like to read more stories from this issue, please subscribe to Breaking Barriers.

One place I found community in high school was a Wednesday morning prayer group and a weekly Bible study. My friend Doug was in both. The joy of the Lord bubbles up out of Doug. His friendly spirit led him to start each morning at school by holding the door open and greeting each person. He made every person feel seen and noticed. Doug’s deep faith was a steady presence in my teen years and his kindness a model for all of us to aspire to.

Most of the time, the fact that Doug has cerebral palsy didn’t cross my mind. But I do remember a Bible study retreat we took camping at Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon, Michigan. That experience made me realize that Doug faced some unique challenges. We were spending time on the beach and playing in the water. Doug wasn’t going in the water. He admitted that even though he lived close to Lake Michigan, he’d only been in it a couple of times because his cerebral palsy made it difficult and potentially dangerous.

I don’t remember the details about how it all happened, but pretty soon Doug was arm and arm with Kyle and Tyson as the three of them waded into the waves. I remember Doug’s laughter in that moment and the deep joy we all experienced. Doug glowed for the rest of the day, so thrilled that he had jumped in the waves.

Like Doug, we each have gifts to offer and, like Doug, we each have our own challenges. My hope is that churches aren’t waiting for teens and young adults to get older to serve the community. Instead, it’s good to celebrate the gifts that each brings to our community and hold each other up when life is challenging.

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