Kaia's Talk -
"In First Samuel 16:7 it reads:
“But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
When Blake was born into our family I was 5 years old. I knew right away that he was born different. That he was special. I instantly wanted to take care of him. To love him. To protect him. He was my little brother and I was his older sister. That was what I was supposed to do. As I got older I started noticing how hard his special needs were on my parents and how others thought of him as different.
We went to Disneyland when I was 6 1/2 years old. One evening back in our hotel room, while my mom was cathing and changing Blake, I knelt down beside her and told her I knew exactly what I wanted for my 7th birthday. My mom said that she thought “hmmm, I wonder what she saw at Disneyland today that she wants so badly for her birthday.” I then told her that for my 7th birthday I wanted to learn how to cath and change Blake’s diaper so that mommy and daddy could go to dinner and a movie without having to come home in between to take care of Blake. My mom started to cry. She often referred to Blake as their little miracle because of how well he was doing, but that day she stopped and held my face in her hands and told me that I was their Gift from God.
I liked having that title. It made me feel special too. But I knew I wasn’t doing anything different than what Heavenly Father would want all of his children to do. To love, help, respect and offer service to all people regardless of their stature, countenance, disability, weight, smarts or differences.
How often do we judge others based on their outward appearance? Make fun of people’s mannerisms when they are disabled or mentally retarded? Or shy away from helping others because we are afraid of what they look like? We are all guilty at some point or another. We need to remember that Jesus never turned away a person because of their appearance, their sin, or their lack of abilities.
I want to read “My Friend Linda” that I found in the church magazine The Friend. It is based on a true story.
“People rarely walked up the big hill to get to my house. The ice-cream man wouldn’t waste his gas going up such a steep hill, the paperboy refused to ride his bike to deliver papers there, and even my dog would never run away because he would have to run back up the hill to get home! But at least once a week, Linda huffed and puffed up the big hill on her way up, up, up to my house.
Linda was an older, heavyset woman with short black-and-white hair like salt and pepper. Some people in our neighborhood said she was disabled, but my mother told me that Linda was special. Inside, she was still a little girl. Whenever Linda came to visit, she would greet us with a great big hug and a kiss on the cheek. We could not help smiling when she was around.
One day Linda came jaunting up the hill and bolted into the house. She never knocked or rang the doorbell; she just came in and said, “Linda is here!” Today she was so excited that she grabbed my brother Roy and danced him around the room, yelling, “I’m invited to the Snowflake Ball! Linda is invited to the Snowflake Ball!”
The Snowflake Ball was a fancy dance party for the people who went to Linda’s school. She was so excited to get dressed up that she could not talk about anything else. “I want to wear a big, red, fluffy dress, sparkles in my hair, and red, sparkly shoes,” she said. “I want to wear roses in my hair too. Do you like red, Katie?”
“I like red, but I like pink best,” I answered truthfully.
“I like red the best. I have always wanted to wear a beautiful red dress and be a fancy lady.”
Mother offered to sew Linda’s dream dress. We bought some red shoes at the discount store and glued glitter on them so they sparkled. Every time Linda tried on her dress and shoes, she cried when she had to take them off again. She liked looking as beautiful on the outside as she was on the inside.
Finally the day of the Snowflake Ball arrived. It was a school day for me, but I felt excited for Linda’s big party. At lunch I sat down outside with my friends. From a distance I heard someone yelling my name. “Katie! Katie! My best friend, Katie! Look at me! Katie, I’m so pretty! Katie, look at my pretty, fluffy, puffy, sparkly, happy dress. Katie, look at your friend Linda! I am a fancy lady. Linda is right here. Look, Katie!”
I saw Linda waving from across the street, all dressed up. I would have waved back, but I noticed my friends’ faces. They looked surprised.
“You know that weird lady?” Natalie asked. “She walks all over our neighborhood. My mother says she’s crazy.”
I stammered for an answer.
Then Kelly added, “I see her all over our neighborhood too. Look at her ugly dress! She looks so funny!” They all started to laugh.
Natalie smirked and again asked, “So you know that crazy lady? Is she your best friend or something? How does she know your name?”
Across the street Linda was still waving to me, but she had stopped yelling. I could tell she was sad that I had not answered. I sat quietly for a moment. “Um, I think she knows my name because she walks by our house and hears my mom calling me,” I lied. “Of course I don’t know her.”
Kelly, Natalie, and the other girls seemed relieved and continued joking about her. I felt terrible. I could not bring myself to look across the street at Linda. I couldn’t eat the rest of my lunch; I couldn’t even talk. I knew I had done something wrong.
When I was baptized, I had promised to try to be like Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was now telling me that I had broken my promise. Jesus loved Linda and would never treat her this way, and He loved me and would never want me to act this way.
As the girls began to clear away their lunches, I jumped up. “Stop! I am friends with that lady,” I blurted out. “Her name is Linda, and she is a friend of my family. Please don’t be mean to her. She is special, and we love her.” Some of the girls suppressed smiles, but others said they had special friends like Linda too.
Linda sat on the street curb looking sadly down at her sparkly shoes. Now it was my turn to shout and wave my arms. “Linda, Linda, my best friend, Linda. Look at me! Linda, you look so pretty! You are a very fancy lady! Linda, look at your pretty, puffy, sparkly, happy dress! Linda, look at your friend Katie. Katie is right here, Linda!”
Linda lifted her head. She smiled and waved. The more I waved and shouted, the more she waved back and smiled. Soon she and I were jumping up and down, waving, blowing kisses to each other, and smiling. We had attracted the attention of all the students outside, and they heard me say that Linda was my friend.
Linda had a wonderful time at the Snowflake Ball. She really did look like a fancy lady. Mother and I volunteered to serve punch at the dance so we could watch Linda have a good time.
After the ball Mother, Linda, and I walked up that great big hill to my house. I apologized to Linda for being slow to wave to her. She didn’t even seem to remember, and I thought how lucky I was to have such a forgiving friend. We had a lovely walk home together, my best friends and I. Somehow, with them on each side of me, that great big hill up, up, up to my house didn’t seem so hard after all.”
Sometimes it is hard having a brother with special needs. Sometimes it is hard knowing someone at school has made fun of him and hurt his feelings. Sometimes it is hard that our schedule is slower or needs to change because of Blake’s needs, but I wouldn’t trade Blake for any other brother. I love being his older sister. I love that Heavenly Father chose me to be born first, even though being younger than him, might have been an easier life. We must remember to be sensitive to peoples’ needs. We need to remember that even if a person is different than us, they want to be loved, accepted and respected. President James E. Faust said, “[Some people] may appear different, move awkwardly, and speak haltingly, but they have the same feelings. … They want to be loved for what they are inside.”
We are children of a loving Heavenly Father who loves us all equally and wants us to show that same love and respect to everyone. Look for ways to serve those that might be different from you. Wave big and loud and make someone feel special, like Katie did for Linda. In doing so you will feel the true love of Christ.
When Blake was born my parents often said how lucky Blake was that he was born into our family. What we all realize now, is that we are the lucky ones. And you will feel lucky too as you love and serve ALL of Heavenly Father’s children."