You’ve heard it said, “An eye cannot say to a hand, I don’t need you.” I say an able person cannot say to a disabled person, I don’t need you. For we are all one body with many parts. If the whole body was an eye, where would the sense of touch be? If the whole body had the same IQ, where would the sense of curiosity be? How would we develop a sense of wonder at the discoveries of others? Where would our sense of humor come from? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sight come from?
Keaton is an 8 year old boy who has many challenges in life and one of them is called autism. It’s easy to see Keaton’s constant movement, hear that he has autism, and think that a connection is not possible. It’s easy to notice that he’s not looking at you and assume that he doesn’t see you or hear you. When Keaton seems to be ignoring you and makes repetitive movements, it’s hard to believe that he wants connection. But he does, just as much as the next kid, maybe even more.
Keaton is present, in the moment. He’s joyful and extremely sweet. Learning his language takes time and patience because you have to be able to see that you need him. You need him to teach you things about God that no one else can teach you. His part in the body cannot be replaced by another.
One of the biggest mistakes a church can make is to think that Keaton, and others affected by disability, don’t need to connect to God and other people. If we assume that Keaton doesn’t need God or community, then we are missing the reason Jesus came and died for us. He came to create the way for us to have access to Him. All of us. As we learn that we are all able and disabled, that we all have gifts and needs, we develop a deeper understanding of 1 Corinthians 12:18-20, which says, “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” God has created the whole body of Christ to be honored and supported by each other.
Keaton needs the church.
The church needs Keaton.
And we all need Jesus.
Jennifer Cardillo is a single mom to 8 year old Keaton, her irreplaceable son with severe autism. She is passionate about creating environments where he can thrive and with providing him the best possible care as he becomes who God designed him to be. She’s been blessed to use this same passion for 18 years as a local Marriage and Family Therapist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beth is a social worker & writer who loves Jesus, aunthood, & deep friendships. You can often find her traveling to visit her friends but more often playing silly games with her nieces & nephews. Her mission is to help people with disabilities & their families navigate their way through life and come to know the love of God so they can use their gifts to enrich the Church. To find more of her writings go to befffy.blogspot.com