Here’s the prayer I shared at church today during Joys and Concerns time:
“I want to lift up a joy. And yes, M, I’m going to embarrass you. M just finished his first official summer job, as a counselor at a day camp. There were several kids at camp who, for various reasons, came with really challenging behavior. And they all ended up in M’s group at various times. But no matter what these kids did — and there was at least one day when they hit him with sticks and underwear* — I never once heard M describe them as bad kids, or sound mad about them, or say he wished they were at some other camp. Instead, he always described them as fundamentally good kids, who had reasons for acting the way they did, and he did the best he could to manage their behavior so they could participate in camp. And it was always clear how much he genuinely cared about them.
As a parent, I’m impressed with how maturely and competently he handled them. Spiritually, I can’t help but wonder how much of M’s approach may have been shaped by growing up in a church like ours, where people of all different abilities are welcomed and accepted as just people.**
So I lift up the joy of a teenager whose summer work has been a testament to his beliefs and to loving your neighbor. And for the kids who probably spend much of their lives labelled as ‘the bad kids,” I pray that M has made a difference in their lives, by giving them part of a summer where they could be one of ‘the good kids.'”
* Yes, I really said “underwear” during prayer time. Nobody flinched or giggled.
** Our church has a program that actively includes adults with developmental delays, both in our regular Sunday worship, and in Sunday afternoon services focused to meet their needs. Many of them live in two group homes near the church, which is how the program originally started.