21909_000_012Individuals with intellectual impairments can teach us much of humility, love, kindness, and patience.
For the past two years I have served in a branch presidency at a care center for intellectually impaired adults. As I have interacted with branch members, I have learned priceless lessons from them—lessons of humility, love, kindness, patience. I recently shared with them some of these thoughts, and it was a moving experience for me.
You have often heard that we who are your leaders, teachers, and trainers learn more from you than you do from us. You who maybe cannot speak or walk or perhaps even hold your head up, you who do not have a car, a job, or a high school diploma have taught us volumes. I will forever be grateful for what you teach me. Let me mention just a few of those things:
You teach of humility. You are “in the world but not of the world.” You have almost no worldly possessions, and you care little for worldly things. You allow others to feed you, clean you, and help you, and you do it without judgment. You are humble and teachable, and you teach me what it means to accept what you have without envy or pride. I love you for teaching me about true humility.
You teach of love and acceptance. Your love knows no boundaries and has no handicap. You don’t care how much money others make or what position they hold or what disability they may have. You love without conditions, and I love you for that and for all that you do.
You teach of kindness. You treat those around you with tenderness and love and charity. I love it when you hold my hand or blow me kisses or wave or write me letters or say thank you. I love to be with you because you are kind to me.
You teach of patience. You live in a world of waiting: you wait to be fed, to be cleaned, to get your medications, to get dressed, to get in and out of bed, to roll over, to come to church, and so on. You do it with patience, and you show love for those who help you. I love you because you teach me how to cultivate patience in my life.
You teach of happiness and joy. I love to see the sparkle in your eyes, and I love how you like to have fun. I love how Rodney teases me and calls me a jackrabbit and how Troy can’t wait to go for a ride in the car. I love how Joye loves chocolate cake and how Derek smiles. I love to see you all smile and laugh, for this is how many of you communicate. For some, it is the only indication the rest of us have that you understand and can respond to things around you. You brighten my day, and I love you for that.
You teach of how to listen to the Spirit of the Lord. I read a story the other day about a man who attended church with a congregation who did not speak his language. He listened to the testimonies they bore, and he bore his own testimony in his native tongue. When asked why he attended church with this congregation, his reply was that even though he didn’t understand the words, he could feel as good as anybody!
That is how I feel when I am with you. Although I don’t understand many of the words you try to speak, I am keenly aware that you understand and feel the Spirit of the Lord. As I look at you, I feel the love our Father in Heaven and the Savior must have for you, and I catch small glimpses of your greatness. I love you for helping me to listen to the Spirit as I serve in our branch.
You teach of our divine nature. When Elda sings “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns, no. 301), there is no doubt in my mind that we are His children and that He loves us all, regardless of our circumstances. I’ve learned to appreciate how our disabilities—and we all have them—can teach us many lessons. I’ve learned to value our differences, for they spawn opportunities for service, teaching, charity, kindness, and love. I love you because you teach me how to cherish life and whatever it may bring.
You teach of our Savior. I’ve learned that you are closer to perfection than I will probably ever be in my lifetime. When I look at you, I see many of the attributes of our Savior. You teach me how to be more like Him. You are God’s chosen. You are my teachers, and I love you.
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