What have the mentally and physically disadvantaged persons I’ve known taught me? First, two disadvantaged persons I knew in my boyhood years: Peggy C. and Roddie S. Peggy was an older sister of a grade-school classmate, David. When I visited David, Peggy was there. She did not talk much; she was just there. I saw how this large family accepted and cared for her. I thought about who would care for her when her mother and father were no longer able to do so. Peggy was there; and I could not escape her. I had to learn to relate to her. And this to my mind was a basic, necessary learning experience for me.
Roddie lived on the same block that many of my grade/school friends lived and played. Oftentimes we would play touch football on the street of this block. And sometimes Roddie would emerge from his house and want to play with us. I learned to respect Roddie from my friends as they sometimes (not always!) found a way to incorporate Roddie in our play. And I can remember how thankful Roddie’s mother was when she appeared at their door to welcome a very excited Roddie back into their house.
Mrs. Betty M. lived just three houses away from our home during my grade school years, but by the time I was in high school, as I understood the situation, she lived most of the time in a mental institution or home. Her husband, Jack, had to raise their son, Richard, who was about 4 years younger than I effectively by himself, for Betty was allowed to return home for only a-few- days stints several times a year. I remember how quiet and frail Betty was, but was particularly struck by the devotion and faithfulness of her husband, Jack.
Peter is a fellow member of my religious congregation, The Society of Jesus or Jesuits. Peter is an outstandingly talented person; the kind of person who gives the impression that nothing was beyond his talents and energy to master. Yet, one day during that one year that we lived in the same community his mentally disadvantaged brother appeared. Then, I saw Peter’s great love and respect for his brother, but also his deep confusion over whether he should support his brother in his desire to marry.
Below, Uncle Bob presides over my niece Jasmine's baptism.
Disadvantaged people bring us back to recognizing and living our humanity, and this is a lesson, a teaching, that we all must learn. May we serve our disadvantaged brothers and sisters in their need as well as they serve us.
Thank you for sharing today Uncle Bob!