All life long, I’d never lent a hand at organisations dedicated to mentally or physicially disadvantaged folk — most I’ve done is with the elderly and with children in passing. So, yesterday at Christian Outreach to the Handicapped (COH is not a very politically correct name, but it’s cos it was set up back in 1979) was my very first time encountering ‘them’.
COH is a kind of day care and training centre for folks with an IQ of 70 and below, though the centre now only has people with an IQ of 50 and below, who might have severe autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, or be prone to epileptic fits. Not knowing what to expect, I went in with no expectations except the thought of doing something community-based — haven’t done anything along those lines in a long, long, long while. Well, I had a ball of a time, which ended with much singing and dancing — proper partying!
Now, maybe you’ve heard things like, oh, you can learn so much from the; they’re so happy in spite of everything; it makes you grateful for what you have and can do. That may be true, but I think they’re not necessarily happy — they get lonely, grumpy and frustrated too — but are just who they are. They can’t hide their weaknesses, their vulnerability — it’s all laid bare for you to decide to help or hinder or ignore or sneer or steer clear. In this sense, they’re the most authentic people I know. The lack of pretense is how they inspire me. Even if they’re not terribly aware of what’s going on around them, they’re quite simply being themselves — honestly so.
But yes, I had a bit of a heartwarming awakening too — as we sang “It’s good to see you”, I found myself feeling keenly that God was singing along with us, to them. This was probably a result of reading these lines before I set off in the morning (He’s so good at arranging such ‘coincidences’, isn’t He?):
Woe to you who strive with your Maker,
earthen vessels with the potter!
Does the clay say to the one who fashions it, “What are you making”?
or “Your work has no handles”?
Woe to anyone who says to a father, “What are you begetting?”
or to a woman, “With what are you in labor?”
Thus says the LORD,
the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker:
Will you question me about my children,
or command me concerning the work of my hands?
I used to wonder, why, God, why did polio have to strike this lady? Why does that fellow over there have to bear such a stigma? At COH, I got my answer. Every work of the Lord is good, however it appears to human eyes. He’s so glad that they’re around and pours the Father’s song over them just as He does over us:
I have to ask myself — am I living as though He loves me because I’m ‘beautiful’? Or do I truly know and believe that I’m beautiful because He loves me? I’d like to discard all and any false ideals of beauty hiding in my heart, and begin my authentication process anew!