Two weeks ago [April 2013], I had the opportunity to serve at the Luke 14 Banquet at Manley Baptist Church in Morristown, TN. The banquet is an annual event based on the story found in Luke 14.
12 Then he [Jesus] turned to his host [Pharisee who was a religious leader]. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. 13 Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.” – NLT
The event is really a huge party for the disabled with games, activities, music, food and a petting zoo. This year’s theme was A Night with The King and all the staff and volunteers did their best to make each person feel like a king or queen. I volunteered to be a buddy, which meant I was paired with a guest for the night. Just being around people who act or look strange because of their disability can make you uncomfortable. Spending around four hours with someone who is very different from you is definitely a challenge! While waiting for my buddy, my thoughts flashed back to the two previous times I had helped out at the banquet. Last year, I made an appearance as a mascot named Health E. Hound. That was pretty fun! I got to give high fives and hugs to disabled kids. In 2010, I had been a buddy to a man named Donald. Donald could not talk, had poor eyesight and was mentally challenged. That experience was uncomfortable at first but had turned into a blessing.
Back to the present, as I was waiting to meet my buddy, I was excited and surprisingly not very nervous. God had given me peace and told me that I was going to have a great night. Then it was time. I met my buddy Rob and after a few minutes of talking, it was like we were already friends. Rob was wearing a Michigan jersey because Michigan was playing in the Final Four that night. As I am a huge basketball fan, we had an immediate connection. We talked sports, played games, painted and ate popcorn. Rob’s favorite thing to do was pet the baby kangaroo. We visited the kangaroo at least five times in 2 hours! Rob was really appreciative of my guidance and especially enjoyed it when I took several pictures of him with the kangaroo. One of the neatest things about spending time with Rob was watching how he made other people smile. Several times he made balloon animals for some of the staff members who were helping him out. Seeing the surprise on their faces when they realized that Rob could transform a balloon into a teddy bear was really cool! I had a great day and was grateful for the opportunity to become friends with Rob.
Just because some people cannot function on the same level as you or look different than you doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable. The way we treat those whom society views as irrelevant or lowly is of critical importance (Matthew 25:34-40). No matter your age, gender, or ethnicity, your life matters. There is only one race – the human race – and every person is made in the image of God and is loved by Him. This also makes me think of unborn children, whom many people view as less than human. We strongly value many rights in the United States, but the most fundamental right, the right to life, is somehow left behind. Life is beautiful, whether it takes its form as a mentally challenged adult, a teen with Down Syndrome, a child in the slums of India, or an unborn baby. If we have been blessed with money or possessions, we should find ways to bless others who are in need. Those of us who enjoy a “greater” quality of life should never take all the blessings we have for granted. There are really so many things to appreciate and be thankful for. Life is beautiful, because God made it.