Colleen Montgomery, Salem,VA
- Did you ever have toy like was like you? If so, how was it like you?
- What toy would you be excited to buy a younger sibling, cousin, or neighbor for Christmas?
Like Me, Like Christ
Shoppers across the country are buying toys for Christmas presents for the children in their lives. While many toy manufacturers have increased the racial diversity of their dolls and action figures, there is a segment of children who still don’t see themselves in the toys they find under the tree on Christmas day. Children with disabilities and medical conditions.
Roanoke College (one of the ELCA’s colleges) has a chapter of Toy Like Me whose purpose is to adapt toys to look like children who have disabilities and medical conditions. Toy Like Me recently hosted a modfication day where they modified nearly 200 toys for children in the Roanoke Valley in Virginia.
Volunteers from the club and wider campus community added cochlear implants, insulin pumps, and other assistive devices. Dolls, stuffed animals, and action figures are customized to the requests of many families. The club also modified toys with port-a-caths to be given to local hospitals for children when they are diagnosed with cancer.
Founded by biology professor, Frances McCutcheon, Toy Like Me has been modifying toys since 2016. McCutcheon also teaches classes at the college on differ-abilities where students are able to spend 48 hours experiencing what it is like to live with a disability. Students then make recommendations to the college on how to improve accessibility across campus.
Toy Like Me has helped make Christmas a little brighter, and the students are helping to make their college community a more accessible and welcoming community.
- How do you think a child feels when they receive a toy that is like them for perhaps the very first time?
- Have you ever had a classmate who had a disability? What modifications were in place to enable them to be a part of the classroom community?
- How does someone with a wheelchair get around your school?
Third Sunday of Advent
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
In Matthew 11, John the Baptist, a prominent prophet of the time, wants to be sure that Jesus is the real deal. If Jesus was a modern day celebrity, John would want to know that Jesus had the little blue check next to his photo on social media. Jesus points to the restoration of people who experience sight loss, mobility concerns, skin diseases, and hearing loss as a sign of his divinity and as validation of his status as Son of God. Only the Son of God could heal like that.
However, we do a disservice to the people that Jesus restored if we view them only as proof for God’s plan or if we lump them all together as people that Jesus healed. Each person that Jesus touched had a whole life, a whole story, a family, hopes, and dreams. Their illness or disability presented challenges for their daily living.
One of the main reasons for those challenges was the social separation that the wider society forced on them. Instead of finding ways to care for the sick in community or to empower those experiencing a disability to contribute to the community, they shut them out. Cast them off. Forced them to live isolated lives.
For those who were sick, the healing that Jesus provided saved their lives. Yet for those who experienced blindness, loss of hearing, or mobility challenges, the restoration returned them to community. In a different place, in a different time, these people could have led full and happy lives with their disability. But Israel at the turn of the millennium was not that time or place. Jesus allows them to re-enter the life of their family, to work, and maybe to be partnered.
We are like Jesus when we join in the work of making our communities accessible to all people. As with all projects meant to serve and support, this work is best done in conversation and collaboration with those we hope will benefit from it. When possible, letting people with disabilities take the lead in the design of adaptations or renovations is best. Then the wider community can help fund, build, and celebrate the inclusion of more of God’s beloved children.
- If someone in your group or church has a disability and they would be comfortable sharing, invite them to tell the group about what is like to come to church.
- How does it feel when you are left out of a game or activity that you wanted to be a part of?
- How can you be more mindful in your everyday life of those who move through life differently than you?
- Find a wheelchair or office chair with wheels and take it the parking lot of your church building. Pretend that you are a worship leader and need to get into the building, use the restroom, and then make it to the lectern. Were you able to complete the tasks? What modifications would need to be made in the building for a person who uses a wheelchair to be a worship leader? What modifications would need to be made for a person in a wheelchair to be the pastor or deacon?
- Go onto the ELCA website and use the Find A Congregation tool to search for accessible churches near you. How far would you have to travel to attend a church for each of the categories under accessibility/disability?
- Learn sign language for your favorite Christmas hymn and incorporate it into your Christmas Eve worship, even if it is just from the pews. Some tutorials can be found here.
Creating God, you made each body different. Each of us is able to experience creation and share love with the world, even if we don’t all do it in the same way. Use our gifts to help make our community more accessible and welcoming to all people, however our bodies and minds work. Amen.