It was a summer I had wanted for a long time, one with my younger brother, Scott. We had been separated for many years, since I was 6 and he 4. I lived with my mother and stepfather, and he went to live in a state facility for persons with disabilities. His cerebral palsy was severe, but he seemed absolutely perfect to me. I found a job near him, so I could see him and be his big sister once again. I had missed him greatly.
Every morning before my job and every afternoon after work, I’d go be with Scott and his friends, all of whom had various physical and mental limitations. Most were in wheelchairs, some confined to bed. Others could not talk. Some could not feed themselves. But none of this stopped us from having a good time together. They loved life, one another and me. We were together, with me telling them stories, showing them pictures of things they would never see, bringing them ice cream and other rare treats. Scott beamed with pride that his big sister was there making everyone feel special and loved. He was happy to have family near him after so many years being isolated from us.
I loved time together with Scott, to see him in his world, to know his friends and the people he grew up with while we were apart. I thanked God for allowing me this special time.
But I was also sad for the pain and suffering these precious people endured day after day. Some had no family to visit them. Some had never known life without pain, sorrows and constant struggles. Some would never leave the facility, see the ocean or enjoy the changing leaves in the autumn mountains. All the things I took for granted, like scratching my nose when it itched or feeding myself when hungry, were things many of Scott’s friends, and Scott himself, could not do.
While this certainly made me sad, I tried to do all I could to bring them some joy, to be a light in a world where darkness knocked on every door. I told jokes, read stories, gave puppet shows and talked to them with respect and dignity.
We also sang. I led them in a favorite church hymn, “Jesus Loves Me,” at the end of every visit I made. It was a glorious rendition of a song Scott and I used to sing before he left our household, one he could only make sounds to sing, not real words. But I knew God heard and understood every sound Scott and his friends made.
One day, as we sang this song, I thought to myself: How can these people think Jesus loves them? Look at them, crippled, in pain, lonely, poor and some abandoned by family. How in the world can they think that Jesus loves them in the midst of all their pain and sorrow?
I stopped singing and asked them all:
“Listen, I just don’t understand, How is it you know Jesus loves you? All of you have had a hard life? What makes you think God loves you?
Redheaded Willie started laughing and raised his hand to answer.
“You’re silly, Malinda. Of course we know Jesus loves us. He sent us you; didn’t He? And you love us, so Jesus must love us too!”
Those that could began clapping. Scott smiled ear to ear, and all I could do was cry tears of joy. I was surrounded by joy, a deep abiding joy that can only come from the love of God that goes deeper than any sorrow.
For indeed, Jesus does loves me. And Willie. And Scott. And you. And all the precious children of the world. Let us be bearers of that love to every corner of the world.
Malinda Fillingim is a freelance writer residing in North Carolina.
- Do you question God’s love when circumstances are bad? If so, what can we learn from Scott and his friends?
- How do we know that Jesus loves us?