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10 Ways to Show the Love of God to Families Touched by Disability

KATIE MCVAY CAMPBELL·FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2016
John 9:2-4 “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.”
These verses are the basis for this note. My husband and I are in a weekly Bible study (Same Lake Different Boat by Stephanie Hubach). That study focuses on disability, how it is viewed by the world, and how it is viewed by God. We have learned that disability is a normal part of an abnormal world. How should we view those touched by disability? How should we view all people? The answer to that is that we should view all people through the eyes of God. Have you ever looked at your own child and filled with so much love you could cry? You see them and think how could I possibly love anything more than my child? Well, that is how our God views us. Even when we are awful, he still looks at us with love. This is how we are to treat people.
People with disabilities show us the power of God as the above verse states. I remember once upon a time a friend of mine had a cousin with a disability. I loved that kiddo, his personality, his grace, his wonderment, and his constant smile. I cannot think of him without seeing that smile and his memory has stayed with me all my life. While he used a wheelchair and couldn’t walk at all he was always smiling. He was always showing the love of God through that smile, through his positive outlook, through his songs. He LOVED to sing. His favorite song was “I’ll fly away”. I love that song even more since I met him. He was always happy. I don’t remember a time he wasn’t. He saw the good in everything. He’s since passed on from this earth and I’m certain he’s flying with the Lord he had so much love for. Just as the above verse says, he showed God’s love through his love, wonderment, happiness, and his contentment with life. Truly, truly an amazing young man. He was proof that the above verse is absolutely true.
In the few weeks we’ve been in this Bible study I am noticing a trend.  How can you show that same love of God to those touched by disability? Those who are touched by disability and their families do have it harder than most. They just do. I wish I could sugar coat that but I can’t. Life is hard. We have appointments galore, therapies, medication pick ups, school, IEP meetings, fighting for services, medications, and equipment, stress from seeing our children struggle, and the parents just struggling to make it to the end of the day without falling asleep because yes, that is usually interrupted too. We face things that most people don’t. We deal with stressors most people never have to think about and if you are tired in your day to day routine you can imagine how exhausted we are at the end of our day.
In our Bible study last night we were discussing how people can show the love of God to those who are touched by disability. Now most of the families in this study are, in fact, touched by disability and I learned in that particular study just how alone families feel. That made me a little angry. In truth, many families are excluded from plans, they are pretty isolated, and getting a babysitter is much harder for them. Divorce rates are very high in families with children with disabilities. Parents often can’t be a couple because their family needs them to be parents, advocates, therapists, teachers, nurses, etc. Who has time to be a couple?? People often say to families touched by disability, “Call me if you need me”. That is great and all but the fact is that help is always needed or wanted so often families just do not ask. And also, in all honesty, we aren’t sure what we NEED from one moment to the next. To help most special needs families you really just have to show up, do things that you yourself do daily. We discussed in our study last night several ways that you can help families with disability. I mean really help and it doesn’t take a lot of work. There’s countless ways to help but I’ll limit this list to ten.
1. Respite– Come and watch the child so mama can catch a nap or a shower. She needs her alone time, too. For that matter, do something just for mom or dad, they are so very often put on the back burner.
2. Parents Night Out– Once you get to know the child and family and they get to know you a trust will develop.  Offer to let the parents be a couple for a few hours.
3. Makes Meals- I’ll be honest, tonight I’m in my recliner with a blanket while my son is on the computer and my daughter watches TV. My son is tube fed and my daughter is incredibly picky so mac-n-cheese it is. I’m exhausted and just didn’t feel like cooking. If I get hungry, cereal it is.
4. Help at Home– Special needs families have the same responsibilities that you do. You could come by and mow the lawn, help clean the house, fix something you know is broken that they don’t have the time or funds to fix themselves.
5. Socialization– Come by and talk to parents and the children. Get to know the entire family. Take a glimpse into that family’s world and it also give some adult interaction. All adults need it and thrive on it.
6. Inclusion- Invite special needs parents AND the children. Family friendly events are great. As I said above, finding babysitters is very difficult. Special needs families often cannot accept an invitation at the drop of a hat and most of the time when invitations are declined multiple times, they just stopped getting invited. Include all the family, make them a part of your life, and you a part of theirs.
7. Educate Yourself- Educate to the specific disability so you can understand what we all go through and what we need. It will also help you to better interact with the children.
8. Transportation- Another example: I work on Tuesdays. Brayden had an appointment on Tuesday that needed to be rescheduled because of that. It ended up being either Tuesday or February. Tuesday it is, as we obviously cannot wait until Febuary. My husband has to take off work early to take him and I will meet him there when I get off work. Sometimes it’s like that. It’s been like that so much this year that he has no vacation time left and is running off of comp time from working one weekend a month. (I’m not asking for help here, it’s already settled. This is to show a good example of why transportation might be important).
9. Don’t Offer Advice, Offer Assistance- Trust me, we’ve researched our own particular disability so much we could likely write our own book(s). “Have you heard of this…”  Yes, I have. I’m really not trying to be mean here but it’s the truth. If you’ve researched and found something you didn’t already know then great! Apply it to that family. I promise we’ll appreciate it, not just the fact that you’ve researched but that you cared enough to apply that knowledge.
10. Show Us God’s love- offer a word of God or a word of prayer. When you say you are going to pray for us, really pray for us. We need it. We do a lot of praying on our own believe me. We’ve gotten down on our knees crying out to God more than once, however, he hears all of our prayers so yours are greatly appreciated. You also will see things we do not. You’re fresh eyes and may see a need that we’ve missed! Pray for the parents and siblings too. We (speaking for myself here) forgot about ourselves often. Everything we do, we do for our children. EVERY.THING. I often forgot to pray for myself in this process.
I know this was very long and I appreciate you reading if you’ve made it to this point. No one should feel as alone as some of these families feel that I have met. It breaks my heart to see a family sobbing because they feel so all alone in this world. There’s too much love left in this world for that. Please show the love of God through you.Often parents are so weighed down by the burdens of life that they can no longer see the hope of God. It’s like carrying multiple of those heavy duty chains around on your body and adding a new one on with each struggle.  Helping to remove some of those burdens helps the light shine through those heavy chains they carry. You did that. You can show the love of God just by being present. Listen when these parents talk and read between the lines. I know God doesn’t expect us to do more than we can. I’m not saying do all 10 of these things for one single family. But you could do ONE of these things for ten families and show the love of our Lord through your actions. Be a vessel!
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