February 6th, 2013
I feel deeply about the principle of inclusion. For over eleven yrs now I’ve been a skills trainer for Developmentally Delayed adults in the greater Portland area. I now have a 7yr old autistic grandson who is sometimes brought to my home during the 2nd and third hrs of his ward meetings instead of going to his primary class because there are not enough teachers to afford him a one-on one assistant. While I love anytime I get to be with my beloved lil â€œCelestial Boyâ€, my heart aches because of his exclusion from Â his Primary peers. There can be no â€œblameâ€ cast to the Church, who will never â€œforceâ€ anyone to take on a volunteer calling. Neither do I â€œblameâ€ those who refuse the opportunity to spend a few hrs with him each week.Â I simply feelÂ a compulsion to educate and share some of my understanding and feelingsâ€¦.Isnâ€™t that what â€œBlogsâ€ are for???
As I teach each weekday at work , Â I Observe how the general public acts and reacts to coming in contact with anyone who is different: physically or cognitively.. I can tell from watching, how almost fearful, some children react to various appearances and behaviors that are foreign to them. What seems most tragic to me is that too often a matching look is mirrored on the face of their parents!Â Â Even more tragic, I have seen similarÂ discomfort and avoidance towards the physically and mentally challenged sometimes even at Church by individuals who are loving people, but just donâ€™t feel comfortable connecting with and drawing in those who are â€œdifferent. â€œÂ Â I was searchingÂ for, Â and hoping to find something said that could help me find a way to teach primary children and their teachers ,of Â the great blessing and great opportunity that can be theirs as they Â discover the power and truth of what Our Savior said: “Perfect love casteth out fear”. Although none of us have that perfect love, our Savior, Jesus Christ Â DOES … and He imparts to ,Â and empowers with His love, Â those who have the faith and desire to love, understand and include those who are “different” Â and do so even at the self risk Â of feeling awkward, at a loss for words, or even difficulty in basic communication with them . Â (See lyrics from the Primary song â€œIâ€™ll walk with youâ€. And consider theÂ song â€œGod Bless the outcasts, the Children of Godâ€ From the Animated film The Hunchback of Notre Dame) â€¦Two of my favorite songs!Â The movie Gigot starring Jackie Gleason 1962,Â seen as a child, inspired me to learn American Sign Language so I would never find myself at a loss to share with anyone that â€œasks me a reason for my hopeâ€ as Paul admonished. Â But the the real foundation for my passion to include comes from my greatestÂ earthly Heroâ€¦..
When I was young, I remember looking at someone with Cerebral Palsy and asking my mother what happened to them. My Mom was not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (I amÂ convert Â from age 17) , Â but this wise and compassionate woman taught the Love of Christ by her fearlessness. Her ability to see past the â€œwrapping paperâ€!Â Her Â value Â of the â€œeternal soulâ€ ofÂ an individual was one of the things that made her my hero.
To answer my query, she infused into my young heart the quoted phrase “…”There but for the Grace of God go you and I” She planted into my soul the desire to treat others as I would be treated if I were in their circumstances., because, in reality,Â any one of us very well may have been born to Â a much different life situation, or have life changed in an instant by a â€œMac Truck gone amok! â€œ
Mom took me to nursing homes and into neighborâ€™s homes where she provided respite for their elderly parentsâ€¦. As a pre-teen, I remember it didnâ€™t always smell too wonderful. They would shake, and make funny noises, but the life stories they could tell were better than a movie! The look on their faces when I brought them flowers or drawings warmed my heart and ignited in me a great love and respectÂ for themâ€¦.and oddly enough, the smell, the shaking seemed to disappear from my mind as I looked into their eyesÂ and got a glimpse of â€œThe worth of a soulsâ€ long before I had ever read the written phrase . I will be forever grateful to my fearless, including Mother, who not only gave her community a great service, but did a great service to me by exposing me to opportunities to look for the treasures beneath the surface of those who are â€œDifferentâ€.