Sunday, March 11, 2012

Children of God

My Facebook status currently has a link to a video about "Spread the Word to End the Word," a campaign asking people, teens and young adults especially, to take a pledge not to use the "r-word." The r-word is retard, and the idea is that using it to deprecate someone else, or even oneself, deprecates the people who have been diagnosed with mental retardation. Using it to describe dumb behavior is saying, gosh, horrors, I don't want to be like one of those people living with a label that to many makes them less than fully human. The videos on the Spread the Word Facebook site, made and shared by families and friends of people with intellectual disabilities, show people with Down syndrome and autism and other disorders as great people, laughing, smiling, working, loving.

This afternoon I attended a forum on immigration reform, where several individuals told their stories and other advocates and organizers talked about what we can do to help. Educate others. Write your representatives. Care for those caught up in the detention system. And stop using the word "illegal." It dehumanizes people. It allows us to dismiss them as less than what they are--people who laugh, work, love and suffer under a taxpayer-supported system that is inhumane, ungodly and fearfully complicated.

Spreading the word to end this i-word would be much more difficult than getting "retard" out of the mouths of middle-schoolers. Undocumented residents of the U.S. are thought to be responsible for their own legal difficulties, though often they were brought here as children, not by their own choice, and this country is the only home they know. Their parents came here in order to be able to feed and care for their families. To stop using the word illegal we have to acknowledge all these back stories, and see ourselves, our love for family, our passion for work, our desire for security in all people, not just the ones who look like us.

"We are all children of God." More than one speaker said this today. What more thrilling thing is there to be called than "child of God"? There have been times in my life when being reminded that I am a child of God opened heaven for me.

There were so many children of God that I encountered today. A tiny baby, so new that she seemed to still be part of her mother's arms, the arms that cradled her all through church. Children of God whom we prayed for today because they have died or because they are grieving or ill. Another child of God going through yet another really rough time. There are the college kids sitting around the fire in my backyard, so different from who they were just a year ago as high school seniors. My daughter and her friends, disabled, but lively contributors to a community that marches in parades and supports one another when one of their own dies. Me, child of God, sitting by a candle flickering fast in the draft in the front windows.

I remember with those words--"child of God""--that the God of galaxies and sunsets and giant sequoias is here in my life, in a still small voice and the stuff of everyday life.

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