Friday, March 14, 2014

The Foolish Things

I have a wonderful newspaper deliveryman.  He proudly walks into my classroom every morning with a smile on his face and a paper in his hand.  He says hello and whatever else may come to mind.  I am happy to greet him and his delivery brings my heart delight, especially before reading the newspaper filled with all the woes of this world.

At the beginning of the year I watched my students’ facial expressions when Carter delivered the daily news.  Most of them stared and then looked at me to see how I would respond.  Carter has Down syndrome and my Muslim students come from countries where people with mental or physical disabilities are hidden away.  My students did not know how to react to Carter and at times their concealed reactions that only the eagle eye of a teacher would see included snickering. 

As the year passed, the daily visits from Carter changed the hearts and thoughts of my students.  They began smiling when Carter entered the room and would return a polite wave and hello. 

Then a moment happened that melted my heart.  Carter delivered his paper as usual, but this time he congratulated Malik on his good soccer game played the previous night.  Carter walked over to him and gave him a high five, which quickly turned into the man hug.  You know the one, with clasped hands the men pull towards each other and pat each other on the back.  

How did that just happen?  How had these two unlikely companions from a bond?  Surely not over a morning newspaper route?  Well, that is where it began but where it grew was on the soccer field.  Carter, the manager, and Malik, the recent Muslim immigrant, were both given the opportunity to be on the soccer team and the result was changed hearts.

And as Carter was leaving my room that day, he turned to Malik and said, "Hey man, no hats in school."  

That's right, you tell him, Carter.

The hug reminds me of another moment when God brought people together by another man with Down syndrome.  Several years ago, I was at a very special English camp in Croatia.  This camp was different from others because Croatian students and Gypsy students were attending together.  Gypsies are outcasts in most European cultures, so it was quite significant that for a week these two groups of people were living together.  One evening after a talk about Jesus, Nino asked to have the microphone.  Silence.  Nino has Down syndrome and much like the gypsies, people with disabilities are outcasts.  But, Nino comes from a Christian family who knows he is a child of God, therefore he is a part of the church family and society.  No one knew what to expect from Nino.  He began to speak.  His words silenced us and touched our hearts.  He shared how much Jesus loves him and loves others.  He shared that Jesus died for him and for us.  His message was clear, easy to understand, and full of love.  Looking around the audience I could see tears welling up in the corners of eyes.  I don’t know what the others were thinking, but I was deeply touched to know that God uses anyone to declare his great love. 

God’s love and truth can penetrate the hearts of anyone, including the mentally disabled.  His love and truth is intended to be understood and to be accepted by all people.  He uses his children, including the “foolish ones” of this world to reveal his love to other “foolish ones.”

His word says in 1 Corinthians 1:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,

It is The Message version that really strikes a chord for me.

Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”?  (1 Corinthians 1:26-28)

May I encourage you to let the “nobodies” of this world reveal to you God’s hand at work?  May I encourage you that if you are a “nobody,” (aren’t we all?) to know that God deliberately chooses you?