One of God’s favourite children

No matter how I looked at her, Lois was not appealing to me. She was much too heavy, slow of speech – though she talked a lot and could become eloquent – and in my view, totally out of touch with reality. There was a clumsiness about her, and her lack of coordination spilled out everywhere.

I did have to give her credit for her dogged determination and loyalty. Returning to the Welcome Inn Community Centre and Church one day after making some visits, I stopped in to say hello to the participants of a sewing class. Just at that moment, Lois somehow managed to let the needle of the electric sewing machine she was using go right in and out of her index finger. In spite of the pain, she was determined to complete her tailoring project before giving attention to her injury.

Breast cancer surgery, coupled with inadequate supportive attire, had left her looking quite lopsided. When Lois walked, it appeared she would topple over, but somehow she always managed to get around.

Early in life, Lois had developed epileptic seizures and was institutionalized, because her low-functioning family could not cope with her. As a result of this long-term institutionalization in a mental health facility, where little individual attention was given, she lacked a normal socialization process. However, with the assistance of the centre and other social agencies, she had in recent years been able to improve her social skills and to live on her own.

Nevertheless, in groups she often came across as abrasive, especially in the way she tended to over-estimate her abilities. What could one say to someone who was determined to help out with the teenage club program, when she did not have the skills to relate to teens, including her own son who lived in a foster home? When she looked up at me in such pleading ways, wanting to be someone she wasn’t, I had difficulty knowing how to respond.

Then, on her own, she began writing poems to share with her friends at the centre. At first I paid little attention to them, but gradually began to notice that at times they seemed to touch something vital.

One day she brought us a poem that spoke of her own human reality: of trials and errors, and loneliness. But it also celebrated God’s response to her. It was called “Jesus accepts us,” and went like this:

Through trials and errors we come to him,
Hoping each day he will forgive our sins.
As I know Lord, you accept us anyhow,
So I come to you and humbly bow.

While serving God, no matter what we say,
Please God help us in every way.
Help us to show mercy unto others,
As we should be like sisters and brothers.

He accepts us no matter what race or kin we may be;
As God loves us all we can plainly see.
He shows us mercy when things go wrong,
And we end this story by singing a song.

He doesn’t reject anyone,
But waits for us to come to him when we go wrong.
We do this by asking for forgiveness when we pray
But we should do this in a very kind way.

Jesus, I want to come to you
Even though my life be lonely and blue.
So dear Lord, I hope you will come to me when I pray.
Not only on Sunday, but every day.

She had attached a short prayer:

Thanks, heavenly Father, for accepting me
When I pray with all my heart.
I give you thanks at all times for helping me
                    to become one of your favourite children.
This I pray in your name.
    Amen and Amen.

One of God’s favourite children? I confess that my impulse when she read this prayer to us was indignation: how dare she make such a statement!

I thought again and realized how precious her comment was. It was my own bias that made me react. Was not God’s remarkable imprint present in all human beings? Did not Genesis 1 teach us that God created all of us in God’s image? With such a common rootage, how dare we underestimate even one of God’s people?

It was I who needed to learn to give Lois the applause she deserved.

For further reflection:

1. Can you think of someone you tend to prejudge? How can the realization that that person, too, is created in God’s image change your attitude?

2. How does our society marginalize people who do not fit certain “norms”? Is the Christian church different from society in its approach?

3. Lois had a special gift for bringing other wounded people to the church and centre. What are the gifts contributed by someone you know who is generally not considered very important or valuable?

Hugo and Doreen Neufeld co-directed the Welcome Inn Community Centre in Hamilton, Ont., for 18 years, also giving pastoral leadership to the Welcome Inn Church that emerged there. They now live in Calgary. This story is adapted from Hugo’s book, The North End Lives: A Journey Through Poverty Terrain (Herald Press, 2006), available at 1-800-631-6535.

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