I’ve had the honor of presiding over several funerals in my community for individuals with IDD, intellectual and developmental disabilities. The fact that different several ICFs, Intermediate Care Facilities, or independent providers know that they can call me in these situations is a great source of joy to me.
Every funeral that I have had the opportunity to do has been different. Many have been filled with great joy as family, guardians, friends, and staff gather to share favorite memories and say their final goodbyes. Other funerals have been very somber where there have been no family, friends, or staff present.
Seeing only one person show up to a funeral or worse no one is heartbreaking. I know in many situations where there is no family there ends up being no funeral. Individuals are simply cremated and life goes on for those who knew them.
As I take a step and consider what life has been like for many individuals living with IDD in my community I cannot help but get emotional. The two words that I simply can’t shake are…
What if there were no staff members?
What if there were no staff in situations where there are no family members or where the family has washed their hands of caring for their relative with IDD? If staff members were not present in their lives would they have anyone?
Then I couldn’t help but think about the relationship between individuals with IDD and their staff members.
What if they weren’t paid to be there?
What if the paycheck went away?
If money weren’t involved in the relationships that exist between staff members and adults living with IDD how many of those relationships would continue? I would like to believe that many would, but I am not that naive. Sure some would, but they would be vastly different.
There is a gaping hole in every community across this planet. It is that of genuine friendship. People living with IDD and their families all too often live in isolation. What they need is not something that is complicated. What they need are relationships. What they need is friendship. It is what we all need.
What if churches, of all sizes, understood that Disability Ministry isn’t something that only Megachurches can do?
What if churches understood that Disability Ministry can be as simple as being a friend?
Let me make it painfully simple. You don’t have to start a complicated program. You don’t have to hire anyone. You don’t have to have it all figured out. You don’t need extensive training.
All you need to do is be willing to be a friend. That is it.
If you are willing to be kind and be a friend, you can have an effective outreach to your disability community. The number one issue facing the disability community is that of isolation. People live their entire lives in isolation, many without a real friend that isn’t paid to be there. People who live in isolation and eventually die in isolation. This is not how God intended for anyone to live.
Consider the world of difference that would make in not only their life but yours also.
Too often we sit back and say, “someone should do something about that.” Or we say, “the Church should do something about that.” And we forget that we are “the Church.”
Make the decision today to be a friend.
What if you did?