I remember Patty, in my seventh grade, who wore braces on both legs. Always pleasant and never grumbled or complained about her handicap, she struggled from class to class and her laborious effort to maneuver her crutches echoed on the oak floors. When I heard her, I held the heavy oak door open for her.
Generally, Patty was ignored but sometimes she was ridiculed. One time the boys hid her crutches. When the dismissal bell rang, she reached under her chair, feeling around for her crutches, and almost fell. The hot water radiators had ledges above them and someone had laid the crutches there. I got them for her.
As I stepped into the hall, a student grabbed my arm and laughed in my ear,“Maybe she’d go to the basketball game tonight with ya. You wouldn’t have to hold her hand.”
As he took off, I grabbed him by the shoulder, and asked, “Suppose she was your sister? Would you want her treated that way?
He walked away, but I stood there, as she labored to leave the building, my mind asking, God, why are we humans so cruel to one another? Then I burst through the heavy oak doors myself, pleased that I had confronted him. I passed her scooting down the three concrete steps, dragging her crutches. I ran to the bus and didn’t look back, wiping my eyes on my shirt sleeve.
An Old Testament prophet Jeremiah was derided all the time for preaching the unpopular Word from God and so he complained, “God, I am ridiculed all day long, everyone insults me all day” Jeremiah 20:7b. “I became the laughingstock of all people; they mock me in song all day long” Lamentations 3:14.
Why do we ridicule the handicapped, oppressed, and less fortunate? Psychologists tell us that it is to get pleasure from the misfortune of others, to fit in with the group so we’re not different, and to make ourselves important by putting others down. Human nature wants others to conform and to think and act as they do, an admirable trait if the conformity is positive and Godly.
Here are a few Scriptural burs under our saddles to help us find out where we are in our attitudes toward those who are belitted.“He who despises his neighbor sins” Proverbs 14:21a. Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her” Genesis 16: 6b. “They oppress the poor, the needy, and mistreat the aliens” Ezekiel 22:29. “Remember those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” Hebrews 13:3. This remembrance ought to motivate us to remove a few of the burs.
“Eternal compassionate Lord, give me eyes to see and feel as the less fortunate. Forgive my insensitivity when I ignore helping others and tenderize me with your compassionate heart so I feel like Jesus who healed the crippled, made blind eyes to see, cast out tormenting demons, fed multitudes, calmed storms, and raised the dead. Show me that same Power as I interact with those different from me, particularly the mistreated. Please keep the truth of Hebrews 13:3 alive in me, deep down in my heart and mind. Then and only then will I learn to reach out to those who are ridiculed and mistreated. Amen.”
Excerpted from my memoir Naked With Clothes On soon to be published