“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ ” ~Matthew 25:40
I’m in Dallas this week for work and a conference, and in my free time Sunday, I decided to visit the Dallas World Aquarium. Wonderful museum! As I was enjoying God’s amazing underwater creatures from halfway around the globe right before me, I noticed a relatively young man in a wheelchair just next to me.
Clearly with the man was his wife, or girlfriend, or maybe his sister. As I watched them discreetly for a few moments, I observed the woman completely ignore the man while she showed the boy with them the colorful fish in the tank, then continued to act as if he didn’t exist while she messed with her phone. The handicapped man stared ahead of him, uninterested in the fish and looking sad and dejected.
When our family ever took a field trip or outing, the kids and I loved to include Chris. Though handicapped and scooter-bound, his pleasure and comfort were our first priority. We could not have enjoyed ourselves apart from him knowing we wanted him there with us.
I thought about how much of a difference love makes in the life of someone who struggles with an ongoing physical ailment. The temptation for the sick one to feel they’re a huge burden is mitigated by the sincere love of family and friends.
For those who unfortunately suffer with debilitating disease or physical infirmity, small acts of care and words of kindness may make the difference between them feeling truly alive and feeling dead, though their sick body is living.
Regardless of how difficult a chronically sick person can be to care for (physically and/or emotionally), to not be loved by their own family, like it seemed the man in the wheelchair was, must make their life doubly a prison. They are stuck inside their broken body, and are also trapped in the solitary confinement of rejection.
Even if loving that person is difficult or impossible, at the very least, they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Being made in God’s image earns every human being that right.
We couldn’t change the downward spiral of Chris’s MS those 15 years he lived with it before his passing, but at least we could help make his life richer and fuller with our love and respect.
How I wish that for the sad, young man in the wheelchair.