Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The "R" Word

Today is an awareness day that is close to my heart.

March 5, 2014.

It's Spread the Word to End the Word Day.

The word they are talking about is "retard," and any and all forms of it.

When Joshua was born, my doctor told us he was a "mongoloid." 


I had no idea what he was talking about. Even the term "Down Syndrome" didn't provide me with much explanation. I've written before that, although I traveled the United States and also lived in two foreign countries, I never, ever saw a person with Down Syndrome. In my whole life.

The information that was brought to me in the beginning...right after Joshua's birth...was FULL of the "R" word. I knew that word. It was the word kids used to describe someone who wasn't smart...who was acting wild or silly...who didn't know any better. Someone who looked funny, talked funny, walked funny, acted funny. Someone who was different either by looks or ability. It was used to describe how a person felt when they did something dumb or wrong. Or if they had a bad hair day. Or when they missed a shot or a goal or a jump.

The "R" word.

I think a long time ago, the "R" word had a meaning that was not meant to be degrading to any person or group of people. It was a medical, descriptive word. Somewhere along the way, that changed. And, you know, I can and do overlook a lot of stuff, but when your little boy, who you love more than anything in this world, comes home from school and says he "has a messed up brain," and calls himself the "R" word...because that's what the kids on the playground yelled at him...well, then all bets are off.

Because that day...when Joshua came in and told me that...I died a little inside. Because that was the day I realized that I could do everything in my power to love and protect and nurture and encourage and praise and respect him...and that it wasn't enough.

That one word, or a string of words, could tear it all down.

God fills in those gaps when Jim and I and everything we are trying to do falls short, I'm just sure of it. We lean on Him daily in this parenting journey. But we also need others to stand with us and speak for those who don't have a voice. We start with our families and friends...and then we go to our neighbors and our school teachers and administrators...and our Sunday School teachers and our pediatricians and the girl who cuts our hair. Our kids...and YOURS...are all fearfully and wonderfully made.

With other kids, or adults, you can rationalize the situation. You can tell them WHY the words others say don't matter. You can even put things down on black and white...and it will make sense to them that others are just insecure...or jealous. But with kids and adults like trusting and so innocent, believing the good and not seeing each others' differences as do you explain that someone is just MEAN?

Because unless you are really, really have no excuse. You've gone to school, your kids have gone to school, you've had sensitivity and diversity training in your job, you watch TV...YOU HAVE TO KNOW IT'S NOT OKAY.

If someone used the "N" word, like Paula Deen did, they would lose their reputations and their jobs. They might even lose their families and friends. They would for sure lose all respect. It's just not allowed. It's not accepted.

And if someone made fun of another person because they had no arms...or were Jewish...or would cause the biggest stink of all stinks.

And it should.

It's bullying in every sense of the word.

This type of bullying is far from being gone in our society...and it's not just the kids who say it. I wrote about the scene in my VERY OWN SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS.


This has to change.

Because until it does, we, AND OUR CHILDREN, are all a fall...or a heart attack...or an aneurysm...or an amputation...or a disease...or a brain injury...away...from losing mental capacities or physical abilities and being referred to as the "R" word.

Less than.

Not good enough.

You can't.

The only thing that keeps me from dissolving into tears is that I know it must break God's heart even more than it breaks mine. All of these kids...these adults...God created them. And He created them this way, or He has allowed their circumstances, for His purpose and for His glory and His good.

I don't understand it all.

Sometimes I kind of do. Sometimes, God peels back a layer and allows me to see a glimpse of His purpose in all of see a glimpse of His Heaven here on earth...and it's beautiful.

It's brown, almond-shaped eyes and a big grin. It's hair that sticks straight up no matter how much he tries to lay it down. It's singing the same note throughout every song. It's hearing "you're pretty," every morning, and "let's pray" anytime anyone has a need. It's sheer determination to make his hand hold a pencil, so he can write letters on a page; it's overcoming a hearing deficit by using intense concentration, in order to hear a sermon or a conversation or the radio; it's strength beyond his physical appearance that enables him to lift a bar and metal discs twice his body weight; it's his hand reaching for mine as we walk, and the way small feet in Crocs sound walking across the floor.

I'm asking you...BEGGING YOU...not as the PC police, but as a MOM. Please don't use this word. Teach your children about the hurt it can cause.

Because no child should ever have to hear that word. And no one should never be judged by their IQ. Or by how fast they can run, or IF they can run. Or how far they can throw a ball. Or if they wear glasses, or have braces, or if they have stickin' up hair.

I read this the other day and I don't know where or who said it: "we can't love all the children in the world...until we love ALL the children in the world."

"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous! You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born..." Psalm 139:13-16

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