"Imagine walking down the street and hearing a child say to his mother: "Mom, why does he walk that way?" Or, "Why is she in that wheelchair?" Or, "Why does he have that cane?" People with disabilities don't have to imagine such questions. They hear them regularly—at least those who can hear.
But it's not the queries of curious youngsters that bother those facing physical or mental challenges. It's the indifference, discrimination, or outright hostility that often comes from adults...."
This is a thought-provoking editorial in Christianity Today that makes me very uncomfortable -- because I see myself.
I grew up in an era when the disabled were not as publicly evident as they are now. My son, who is about to become a teenager, has been exposed to all kinds of disabilities from classmates in wheelchairs, to church members who are blind, to grandparents who suffered strokes, and has been able to respond to them first and foremost as people.
I think kids growing up today have gone a long way toward changing the atmosphere that the editorialist wrote about, and that has antecedents in recent history. I spent a few years going to grade school in the South. My elementary school was segregated, but it fed into an intermediate school that was integrated. The kids seemed to have little problem with it, but many adults did. After living in Germany for three years while my father was stationed there, I returned to the same school system for my senior year and integration had pretty much completed. There were a few tensions, but all in all things things had stabilized. Today we take it for granted.
The editorial ends with a reference to I Corinthians 12:22, and I think it is instructive to look at the rest of the passage. This can apply to race, disability, liberal, conservative, rich, poor, lovable, unlovable, and just about anything that separates us from each other.
1Co 12:12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
1Co 12:14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
1Co 12:21 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!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 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, 24 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, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.