The Curiosity of a Child
by Rev. Justin Hancock
Over the last several months I have had the great pleasure of doing the children’s sermon every Sunday at Oaklawn UMC in Dallas. Having the opportunity to interact on a weekly basis with kids has put me in mind once again of something that I have long considered. To put it succinctly, I think the conversation around disability in the United States would be much further along if we allowed ourselves to approach disabilities the way that children do. What I mean is this: throughout my life and most especially since I have become an ordained clergy person, the most frank and honest discussions around disability that I ever had the privilege to engage in most often start with a child saying something like “Why do you sit in that chair?” or “What happened to your legs?”. Usually after a question like this is phrased the mortified parents apologize to me or tell their child that questions like that are impolite. I, however, love questions like this especially when they are offered in church because most kids know that I am a pastor and when they come with questions like “Are your legs broken?” that allows me the opportunity to answer with “No, God made me this way on purpose because the Lord likes all sorts of difference.” Usually the initial question is not the end of the discussion and often finds I move from a conversation about my legs to talking why I don’t sound exactly like Mom and Dad when I talk. I realize that for some persons with disabilities, acknowledgement of their physical difference and/or perceived hardship can bring up a great deal of pain and woundedness. Therefore as an advocate and champion for those with disabilities I would never ask someone to go beyond their own comfort level in order to create an environment for conversation. What I will say to the church at large, however, is that it is OK to create an environment where curiosity about disability is encouraged and oftentimes when I see a child staring I will engage them in conversation. If the average person in the pew can help create an environment where questions and even, yes, some curious looks are encouraged, this can only help to go a long way in creating a church that both looks and feels a lot more like the kingdom of God and that can only be a good thing.