Recently I struck up a conversation with a saleswoman while checking out at a retail counter. Somehow we got on the topic of people and differences. She shared that her boyfriend has dyslexia and that it hurts to hear someone joke to another person about being “dyslexic or something.” Those careless remarks are offensive and the saleswoman is sensitive because she is up close and personal to the struggle of dyslexia.
Eleven years ago my pregnant sister was told her son had Down syndrome, and our family became personally involved in this new reality. When I saw pictures of sweet Downs babies, I considered how my nephew’s infancy would develop. I paid attention to young adults with Downs and wondered what options would help my nephew later on in life. I joined in the celebration of World Down Syndrome Day and decided to have my children’s book ThoughtFull feature a boy who had Down syndrome like my nephew Josiah. Down syndrome has become personal to me.
An Example for Our Children
Birds of a feather often flock together. But if our children only spend time in community with people like them, then people who are different will be “others.” And the natural inclination is to think something is wrong with “others.” All children need to know they have value because humans are made in the image of God. Different languages, special needs, ethnic diversity, or differences not easily visible to the eye draw the curiosity of kids and should be opportunities to reinforce how every person is uniquely gifted.
Beginning with Cain and Abel, humans have sought to value one person over another. Sometimes I believe children (and adults) pick on others because they do not know how to handle differences. I’ve heard stories of former klansmen who took the opportunity to spend time with a black person. Afterwards, perspective and even behavior changed, because proximity has a powerful effect on how we view people.
Jesus’ earthly ministry was marked by being up close and personal. The woman in John 4 was used to division between her fellow Samaritans and Jews. Jesus’ request for a drink took her aback. Even the disciples were surprised that Jesus was interacting with her. Gentiles, lepers, parents bearing the pain of demon possessed children—those whom the religious culture shunned—Jesus took by the hand and lifted up. He showed through His life that every person has value.
It is delightful how Jesus continually set children as the example for us to follow. When his disciples argued about status, Jesus brought a child in their midst to model kingdom greatness. In the same way, let us get up close and personal and teach our children to see the greatness in every child, woman, and man God has made, no matter how different they may be from us.
Learn More About ThoughtFull!
This beautiful new book from Dorena Williamson explores the need to be “thoughtFULL”—full of thoughtfulness and awareness, particularly with those who have special needs. In this delightful story, it’s awards day at school, and Ahanu (a boy with Down Syndrome) earns the award for being thoughtful.
About the Author
Dorena Williamson loves coffee, reading on the beach, and DC comic heroes Wonder Woman and Superman, even though her man is an avid Marvel collector. Whether it’s in the Bible, books, or on the big screen, she loves a good story! Dorena has worked as a social counselor, a staff worship leader, and currently as a stylist with national brand Evereve. She is also passionate about race and justice, as is reflected in her life’s work of leading and loving a multicultural church for over two decades with Chris. But, hands down, Dorena’s most important job has been raising kids for 24 years, and trying to keep all the gray covered up! With a holy nudge after years of teaching, Dorena has jumped into writing with both feet, all the while swayin’ and singin’ to a little Earth, Wind & Fire and trying to impact this next generation by letting her light shine for Jesus.