Friday, May 8, 2015

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find Out What it Means to Me

Photo image courtesy of Lisa Young via 123rf.com

Like many children in our special community, my siblings and I have certainly suffered our fair share of bullying. I was trash-talked for my friends and my acne, my brother was harassed over his hemophilia, and my sister was constantly picked on for the many disorders none of her classmates even knew about yet. It’s true, many of us have experienced the outburst of immaturity from the mouths of those who could never understand how their picking and picking rips off the scab we’ve struggled to grow over our own challenges. However, while I cannot rightfully speak for my siblings, I myself allowed my experiences to lead me to a place of equality, a mindset based upon the mantra “Treat everyone the way you want to be treated.”
These days, I find that the harder the world throws its punches, the bigger my smile grows… sure, I can say that, just like I’m sure many of you have claimed to others as well, but the fact is that it’s easier to tell yourself your sense of equality has grown through the pain than to actually act like it. Say it with me now, “Being nice to everyone is HARD!” Right? Especially when our “almighty” human judgement takes the wheel and steers you away from those whom you can’t find a good reason to treat nicely.
I’ll admit, this is not an easy flaw to address, this peer equality which we withhold from others, and I wouldn’t have been able to address this myself had the events of a few Sundays ago not occurred.
While my mom has been leading a women’s study at a itty-bitty church in Janesville, WI, I have been tagging along with her to help out in the children’s sensory room. My second week, a friend of my mom’s brought her two girls to church. My brother joined with one of them in one room, and I was obligated to play Barbies with the other in the room opposing. Things went well for a time until the other supervisors brought the rest of the kids downstairs to play and left us four alone, an exclusion which the girly across the hall did not take kindly to.
As she was known to do, she began to tell us how she felt about her circumstance, sprinkling in as many swears as she could into each statement. My younger brother had no clue what to make of this, and my stomach sank as she continued to describe her distaste whilst moving to stand in the doorway. I thought, “How did I handle the other, younger kids? How can I handle her?” But in the middle of my thought, she said something peculiar: she began to talk about respect.
As her words were now irrelevant in the context of her previous speech, I could infer that this was a some speech she was repeating from recollection--a stern speech that had been said to her, once; maybe twice; maybe many times; in regard to her own level of respect for others. I knew well her habits of harsh language, and now I knew how much she was really scolded for it when, for the most part, the swearing wasn't completely in her control. More or less I assumed the cursing was to get our attention, to exaggerate her urgency, and after just this one outburst, she was readily awaiting a punishment.
I shrugged and cut the high-pitched toddler-talk I had been using for the other kids and suggested we play downstairs with the others. As we walked, she said something along the lines of, “You won’t tell my mom or my grandma or grandpa.”
My heart ached for her and I said, “Why? I’ve got no reason to tell them anything. I don’t think you were doing anything wrong, and as long as you don’t talk like that downstairs, then I won’t have to tell Mom anything.”
She sat quietly for the most part, but to see her later smile and laugh as she joined the other kids to play with the rainbow parachute, my heart swelled with incomprehensible joy. She was understood, and that made a world of a difference.
I relayed this to my mom on the ride home, thinking little of it’s significance. To my surprise, she thought it astounding. “You treated her like a normal girl. Most people would think she’s a bad kid because of her language, but you recognized it as attention-seeking. A lot of adults can’t recognize that and treat her the way she was treated today.”
The whole event got me to thinking on the manner in which all of us chose to treat our special community: we treat them how we see fit and not as equals or impaired peers. I understand not everybody looks on their sibling or child or friend in this way, but it seems like something so unaddressed and simple that changing it could create a whole new paradigm, in the minds of the peers and of those with individual needs. Outlined in these verses, I see an exact expression of what I am trying to convey, what God is trying to tell us in his word:
"My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
...If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers...
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment." 
(James 2:1-13, NIV)

Special or not, God calls us to treat each other equally and allow the same rights to one as we grant to the other. If God is love and love shows no prejudice, then who are we to show favoritism in the love God has gifted to us? All of God’s people--the lone woman at the church, your downs syndrome friend, or the stranger with CP down the block--wish to be treated with equality, a desire which God asks for us to help fulfill on earth, as it is in His kingdom.

Pray: Lord, help me to seek those who I find it hard to treat fairly. Allow those people to enter into my life so that I may be used by you to spread your unbiased love to those who need it. Help me to see my family and friends in a new light of understanding, patience, and fair treatment.


~Alexandra Dittrich

2 comments:

  1. Lexi, your heart is wise beyond your years! This is outstanding on many levels! Thank you for sharing as I am truly blessed!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree with Ann...you are incredibly wise, and you listen to God, which is not an easy thing to do when working with children!!! Great writing, too!

    ReplyDelete