What did 3 Masters degrees teach me? Everyone is better than me at something, and everyone is better than you at something. When I was a kid I wanted to have the best marks in my grade because I thought that would mean I’d be the smartest kid in the class. Turns out this helped me be the best at something: sucking up. In reality, the highest marks, having the most successful company, the most money, or having the best house means pretty much just that. If you have the highest marks, you have the highest marks. If you have the most money, you have the most money. It doesn’t mean you’re better or even more talented or likeable than anyone else. It likely means the opposite; these things often make you hated by many. Here’s the simple truth we need to remember: We are all better at something than everyone we meet, and everyone we meet is better at something than us. And no, I’m not just going with negative things like “I’m better at losing than you, sucker,” “I’m better at being fat and lazy than you, sorta fatty,” or “I’m better at peeing all over the toilet seat than you, soggy bum.” Even my 6 month old niece is better at things than me: expressing her feelings, relaxing, being content staring at the ceiling, and letting people change her diapers. This last one may sound like a joke, but my biggest fear of old age is needing diapers. I think I’ll just put a toilet in my living room and watch TV with my pants down all day rather than wear diapers. That’s simply too humbling for me, but not for my niece; she’s great at using diapers… although hopefully that will soon change… did you catch the pun? Yeah, I’m better at lame jokes than some people.
So why am I pointing this out in a post on why God made the mentally challenged? Because this means even people with mental disabilities are better at things than me. For instance, a few years ago I was visiting Church on the Rock (a wonderful church) and there was a young lady in her late teens sitting a few rows in front of me. When the music started everyone stood up and politely sang. There were a few people who clapped their hands in a quiet, respectful way, but most of us stood there… everyone but this young lady. She was filled with so much joy she couldn’t help but dance… at least I think it was dancing. It was far from professional and not silly enough to be funny. You know the dance moves you do when you’re home alone, your favourite song comes on, and you forget the blinds are still open? That’s the emotion she had when she danced, but with less skill. She simply moved around with limited coordination and without any sense of rhythm, yet she couldn’t have been happier. She was sooooo full of joy; I couldn’t help but be a little jealous of her. Here she is, a girl who needs a caregiver to take care of her because of her disabilities, and she was better than all three hundred people in that sanctuary at being filled with joy and expressing it without any fear of judgement or criticism. It was incredibly beautiful. Is this something the smartest kid in the class can do? Almost 0% chance. Quite often the smarter you are, the greater the likelihood of over-thinking and complicating things, and increasing our fear of judgment. This young lady with a mental “disability” was actually extremely gifted at living in the moment and feeling joy.
Is this isolated? Not a chance. Tony Campolo, an incredible speaker, mentions going to a really rough inner city community center in Philadelphia where a number of very street toughened gang members were forced to be there. Tony was a guest speaker and no one said hi to him until a mentally challenged boy arrived. This boy greeted him and took him around the room telling everyone about his new friend Tony. This boy melted the cold hearts of everyone there even the gangsters. He had a gift of love.
So why did God create the mentally challenged? Because God made us who are emotionally challenged. He knew that many of us so-called mentally “fit” people needed those who could remind us that life isn’t about being the best, but finding the joy in the little things like dancing to the music in front of others who are too uptight to move, and welcome others with open arms when everyone else is too proud, jealous, or scared. Everyone has value because everyone is better at something than someone else.
This week may you realize the value of everyone around you.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people