In 2001, when my husband and I considered taking in a man who had developmental disabilities, it was with much apprehension. My husband worked full time and I would have to do most of the care myself.
The man, I’ll call him Homer, towered over me on unsteady feet. He walked for short distances with assistance, but used a wheel chair most of the time. What gave me courage to take him was that when his caregivers spoke of him, they always laughed or smiled.
And when he moved in, we found out why. He was a hoot. When he entered a room, his innocent charm soon had everyone smiling. At 58, with a mentality of about a 2-year-old, he was like a giant kid, with dark eyes and curly hair. Most of his speech, he parroted what others said. Somewhere along the line he had picked up the terms “Knothead” and “Bonehead.” We tried to teach him to say “pretty lady,” but in the end we had to settle for Knothead and Bonehead as terms of endearment. At church, instead of amen he would say, “Woo!”
I always said that every one should have the pleasure of hearing Homer go to bed; it was his favorite activity. He would wrinkle up his nose, laugh and clap like an old hillbilly, and play peek-a-boo with his covers, shouting, “Boo!” I often wondered what the neighbors thought. I gave him a Halloween Winnie-the-Pooh bear that said, “Boo!” across his ghost costume.
After only having Homer six months, he was diagnosed with cancer. Less than a month later, he died. I never thought I’d grow so attached to him that quickly. I grieved for months.
When I see Boo Bear I think of Homer, the aide, and I singing “You are my Knothead” in the bathroom together; Homer saying Awwwwwww when he was mad; and Homer twiddling newspaper as he watched TV.
I realize that I’m taking the following verses somewhat out of context, but I think there’s an applicable truth here concerning those with developmental and physical disabilities.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be the weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. I Cor 13: 21-26 NIV
I’ve changed my outlook concerning people with special needs. Instead of seeing them as people with something wrong with them, I see they have a unique purpose and plan just like anyone else. God placed His glory in each person to shine for everyone’s benefit, including those who have physical, mental, or emotional weaknesses (which we all have to some extent). Being “whole and well” is not the most important thing. People with developmental disabilities are valuable and precious just as they are. God gifted Homer to make people smile, and He has created everyone to be a blessing to Himself and to others, regardless of our intelligence, appearance or abilities.
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