People Who Are Not So Different
By Elisabeth Kirsch, age 9
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). “The least of these,” as Jesus says, are people who sometimes have disabilities or who cannot do certain things. This doesn’t mean people should be unkind to them. They are like us even though they are different. Each person can care for them by supporting them and helping them and their families. Jesus wants us to treat others as we would want to be treated. Some people say that individuals with disabilities have less of a life. That’s just not true. All children are children of God and deserve respect just like anyone else.
From my experience of having a brother with Down syndrome, which just means it takes a longer time to learn and grow, he seems just like any other kid, and I forget that he is different. He has special skills that other people don’t have. For example, he has better hearing skills than other people I know, and it seems like he can tell the future. He is enthusiastic and happy and joyful. He has more abilities than disabilities. He is just as capable as everyone else. If people take the time to be friends with him they can learn that he is a child of God and that he has many abilities. To treat others kindly is to treat Jesus kindly. People who are a little closer to the mustard seed have an easier time entering the Kingdom of Heaven. William is closer to God because he is smaller, just like Jesus tries to make Himself so tiny in the Eucharist. My brother is also very silly! He brings joy to us all. My brother also requires more attention at times, which builds patience in me and my family. Because I see that he learns differently, I am more patient with my classmates when they don’t understand something as quickly as I do, and I am more willing to help them succeed.
What does it mean to stand up for people like William? I try to follow Jesus’ command and care for the “least of these” like William and others who appear to be different by standing up for them if they can’t do it themselves or by teaching them so that they can do it themselves. If people are not being kind to those who are different, I try to be a good example of being friendly. Before my brother had words to use, when people asked questions about why he can’t talk or why he is so short, I tried to educate them calmly, even though I sometimes got annoyed. They see that he is different, and their questions sometimes come across as an insult. I let them know that he has Down syndrome, which means it just takes him longer to grow and learn. I had the chance to help at my brother’s preschool that had other children with special needs like Down syndrome and cerebral palsy and also kids who didn’t have any special needs. I would read stories to them and observed that the children with Down syndrome listened longer. I observed that Ms. Meg was an excellent teacher to all the children because she was so loving to them, and it did not matter if a child had a disability or not. She would just meet them where they were, which is what I tried to do since the children had choices in class. Jesus smiles down on us when He notices us treating others kindly. I hope that everyone can consider that people who seem different are more similar than they may first think.
© 2017 Elisabeth Kirsch. Published with permission.