Rachel is a very blessed young lady. It’s one of the reasons I laugh when I hear people say or read where someone says “people afflicted with Down syndrome.” Clearly, they have never met Rachel or most of her friends. Blessings come in many shapes and forms. Most often I think of our blessings in terms of human capital: the people we meet along the journey.
Last fall, Rachel moved up to 8th grade at school and church. In our church most church years bring new Sunday school teachers. Rachel has had some great Sunday school teachers. She has been blessed. We have been blessed. There was Pam and Bart who simply held her and fell in love with her in the church nursery. Chris and Keri were blessed with three baseball playing sons and one Miss Rachel wrapped one Mr. Chris around her finger. When she got upset with him and hid in the cubbie in the preschool room, he coaxed her out with goldfish. When we moved to Olathe, the first two people I met at my church were at a ladies Bible study. Guess what? They taught 3rd grade Sunday school (Rachel’s class) and one has a niece with Down syndrome. Paula and Marlys were and are keepers. Then, along came Mike & Dana, Rob, Christie, Beverly and Sonya. There was Kevin and Michele and I couldn’t forget Diane. Diane had taught Rachel at the Harwood preschool. Then she taught her preschool class at church and cried when she heard her read the Bible while subbing in Kindergarten one Sunday. Yes, we have been blessed. I know I missed someone and I’m sorry. But I also want you to know that this is important because not every child with Down syndrome, not every child with a disability, not every child has this experience.* Pretty much all of these folks are still a part of our lives in some way. We are blessed.
So last fall she was blessed with Ms. Harriet and Miss Kim Bland. Should be Mrs. Kim Bland but Rachel is stuck on the Miss part. She loves Ms. Harriet and tells us how smart she is almost every Sunday. I know she learns a lot because each week she tells us what she has learned. There are some people we just click with. For some reason, she and Miss Kim Bland clicked. She and Miss Kim Bland liked to sing and dance and be silly. Miss Kim Bland like to take her for yogurt and love on her. When she got her phone, she and Miss Kim Bland texted each other. Like all these other blessings, Miss Kim Bland is a keeper. She brought the good out in Rachel, challenged her, taught her about Jesus in word and deed, and met Rachel where she is at.
As these human blessings sometimes do, Miss Kim Bland is moving. Rachel was invited to speak about her at church and the part that stuck out to me was “You make my heart cry happy tears.” So today we went by to say good-bye to her and her family. Rachel took her a picture from Trunk or Treat with an audio message. She prayed for Miss Kim and her family as they move to another state. She is especially concerned that Miss Kim’s daughter find another dance class to be a part of. Did I mention that Rachel loves to dance?
We always hope and pray for beautiful, loving mentors in our kids lives. Miss Kim Bland, you answered that prayer for a short while and I suspect you will continue to mentor across state lines. I have no idea if you ever knew anyone with Down syndrome before Rachel. Isn’t that some of the beauty of this story? I can say with great confidence that all who come behind you Miss Kim Bland will find you faithful. The fire of your devotion will continue to light our way. The footprints you have left have led us to believe and the life you are living is inspiring us to obey. Yes, all who come behind you will find you faithful.
From this momma’s heart, thank you and Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God in every remembrance of you.”
*NOTE: Many people feel like they are or are treated like misfits at church. Some of this is imagined but some of it is real. That is one of the saddest commentaries I can imagine. Overall Rachel has been enthusiastically welcomed and embraced in our churches. However, I know from working with families throughout the country that this sense of rejection is heightened in families of children with disabilities. I have been quite vocal about this and will continue to do so. It is not enough to say Jesus loves you with lip service. Faith without works is dead. Say to yourself, “what would Jesus do?” and go ahead and insert whoever you worship in your religion of choice. I have a hard time imagine that Jesus or any of the others who would say “we are not equipped, we do not have the resources or …” You fill in the blank. While I know we cannot be all things to all people, we can try to consider what would Jesus do, attempt to show love, and be Jesus hands and feet on planet earth. We would all do well to remember these words: “There but for the grace of God go I.”