Ava reached home and called up his sister to tell her he would be going to the office too, from Monday. There was great merriment and no one was more happy than Ava. You see he came from Manipur to live in Delhi with his sister and her husband and two children after his Dad died, and he kind of minded that they all went out to school or the office and he had nowhere special to go. He had made some visits to the local gym which he had enjoyed and he liked it that the guys there would high five a greeting to him each day but that wasn’t the same thing at all.
His first morning wasn’t a total success as he was so excited that he hadn’t eaten breakfast and felt ghastly by about 11.30 but that was soon sorted as his other sister had stayed with him and now as regular as clockwork, he reports to the boss on arriving and then heads off to his table where he begins his work folding products ready for display or shipping for export.
Not very inspiring work you might think but Ava has Down Syndrome a disorder that has caused him to have delayed development and although he is in his early 30’s this is his first work experience.
Nice story as far as it goes but what has it to do with this blog? Well I suppose it is an attempt to share one way that Christians can reach out practically to people with disabilities, and it might be one you have never thought about before.
When Jesus interacts with disabled people he does so in a number of ways but often there is thread running through which shows that Jesus cares and He does something practical that allows the person with a disability a chance for a better life. A great example is the story of the man with the withered hand (Mathew 12:9-14). This story is about a man who has a shriveled hand who is in the synagogue at the same time as Jesus one Sabbath. We don’t know anything else about the man. The religious leaders were there too of course and they were always trying to catch Jesus out and they try again here by asking –
“Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?”
Now in the normal reading of the law it would not have been, but look what Jesus replies
“If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? how much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.”
Then Jesus asks the man to stretch out his hand and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other one.
You may think this is an amazing story but maybe not something you can be doing since you don’t have the gift of healing. But on closer inspection we can see Jesus highlights the intrinsic value of this man (one most people might well have thought wasn’t up to much since he had one useless hand) and brings him to a condition that will allow him a fuller place in society. Now that we can all do, indeed, as Christians we must, because it was what our master did again and again.
For Ava, getting some work experience is making him happy but he is also part of a larger society that begins to see Ava in a different way as someone who can work; his value in this cruel word that measures people by who they are and what they can do will begin to change.
It is somewhat of a tragedy that all too often people have an idea that if a person has a disability they will be unemployable. Of course it is a false notion as we have blind academics, university professors in wheel chairs, athletes and musicians, CEOs and at least one Church of South India Pastor who uses a wheelchair. As a Christian employer, or Christian with influence in your work place, or maybe as a Christian in an NGO, Ava’s delight at “going to the office” and the wonderful model of our Lord and master can be an encouragement to you to see in what ways you could provide work experience or employment to a person like him.
To help you think about this a little more check out Engage Disability’s Toolkit http://engagedisability.com/resources/