Twelve excited nervous 5th-6th graders piled out of the vans, ready to serve but not sure what they were going to encounter. A few of them had some situations where they had interacted with kids who were disabled, but today they were going to make crafts and do handbells with adults who were physically and mentally disabled. That would be a whole new experience for most of them! But they were up to the challenge. I have to say that I have never seen a more bold group of kids as one blind man came up insisting that he had to touch everyone on the shoulder and give them a ritualistic blessing as he entered the room. Others could not talk, some rocked continually and we were warned that one had a habit of spitting so they placed an additional helper with him.
We had role played situations ahead of time with our team of kids, which gave them confidence to step up to the residents and begin talking with them. For about half an hour, they talked with the adults about what things they thanked God for as they made a craft together and prayed with each one that would allow them.
Then we pulled out the handbells and involved all the residents in using color coded cards and colored handbells to play songs, even some for Christmas! Smiles and laughter filled the room from both our kids, the residents and the employees. They were so grateful our kids came and spent time with them.
Conversation in the van on the way back to the church included comments from our kids like, “I didn’t know there were people like that,” “The guy I worked with couldn’t speak, but he smiled when I asked him questions,” and “That would be so hard to have to live like that. I’m glad we went.” Even the remark, “I was scared,” but that didn’t stop them. All of us learned together that day the importance of taking time to step out of our comfort zone to reach another. Take time and do it with your kids.