His name was Jimmy. He is my very first memory of a special needs child. His parents - Don and Merle - had waited and waited for him and were ecstatic over his coming! I was a young child myself when I met Jimmy so I don't know a lot of details. He had a very large head and mostly just lay in his crib. He was a hydrocephalic baby.
Hydrocephalus is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain. The resulting increased intracranial pressure causes an enlarged head, seizures, developmental and mental disability. Jimmy had all of these.
I didn't know anything about disabilities. The only other disabled person I knew was my grandfather who had two artificial legs. I knew he took his prosthesis off when he went to bed as I saw them there once or twice. They might have been scary except that they were just a part of my beloved granddaddy with their wooden and then plastic legs and leather straps. Besides, I didn't know my grandfather was disabled. He was definitely differently abled but did NOT consider himself disabled in ANY way. And he didn't act disabled in any way either. So Jimmy was the first person I remember knowing was disabled.
I was in Jimmy's home on a fairly regular basis as our parents were good friends, and we went to the same church. It was sad to me that Jimmy was different from other babies, that he would never change in the way other babies grow and develop. But what impressed me much more than Jimmy's limitations was the love in that home. Jimmy was incredibly loved and celebrated. His room was the center of the home and full of light and joy!
I don't remember how long Jimmy lived but, one day, I heard that Jimmy had gone to heaven so I expect to see Jimmy again some day.
Since then I have known many other people with a wide range of disabilities. Some of them are dear friends! Some are members of my family. But, my take-away from Jimmy and his parents is that disabilities can be celebrated and should be! God makes each one of us special and in His own image!
In the New Testament Paul says:
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (I Cor. 12:21-27)