We all have a unique story that begs not only to be told, but to share the beauty of who we are as God’s children; stories of hope and the love of God and His Beloved Son; stories we can tell to our children and their children until our story becomes theirs; stories that are eternal.
I pray my story, which I want to share with you, my brothers and sisters, will not be just any ordinary story, but one you will always remember. My story begins with coming to Birmingham, Alabama, after losing my dad at six years old. Moving to Birmingham was rough because I loved Morris, Illinois. It is where all of the wonderful memories happened that I had growing up with my dad when he was home. I remember fishing with my dad and catching my first fish. I felt unhappy leaving my hometown.
I started school at Chelsea Elementary when I was seven years old. I never imagined what would happen to me when I started school. I expected people to treat me like I was treated back in Morris. Instead, I was made fun of and used by troublemakers. I remember being so hurt that I would come home crying as well as at school.
I struggled to make friends because no one seemed to understand me. I also struggled with school from kindergarten through fourth grade. No teacher believed in me, except for my mom. Doctors and teachers told us I had learning delays. What we did not know at the time was my problem was physical. I have had doctors and teachers telling me lies about my problem.
I did have a delay in learning, affected by my hearing and speech. The reason for this physical problem was because of my mother’s tight stomach while I was in utero, where my upper jaw grew faster than my lower, which shifted my lower jaw to the left side and misaligned the middle bones in both ears. My mom did not show any signs of pregnancy until six weeks later, when the doctor told her that she was six weeks pregnant with me. It also has created a hole in my soft palate. I was unable to close my mouth for a long time, and my speech was difficult.
Because of this, teachers did not take the time to observe how I learned at the time and how smart I really was. My mom believed in me all along and knew I was smart. It would just take teachers who taught me differently and made me a part of a regular classroom. But no, they put me in a special needs classroom.
Over the years, we have fixed my jaw, ears, and soft palate through surgeries. I have had a total of six surgeries: three from my ears (such as putting tubes in both ears and separate surgery to correct the alignment of the bones in my middle ears), one from my jaw, and two from my soft palate. It took time for healing, but I have made huge progress in my speech and, over the next two years or so, I will be able to speak even better.
My hope for you guys, whatever you are going through, is that you never give up hope. You have potential. Along with this, I want to remind you just because someone is different does not make him or her less human. They are unique and beautiful like you and me. God created all of us, and through struggles on different paths, we come to the same hope: God can use anyone no matter what.
We are made in the image of the Triune and unchangeable God. Our Father sees us as His precious children and cares for the least of these, so do not assume the worst about people based on where they came from and their struggles. Our view of God should determine our view of others.
If we view God to be loving, then we should love others the same way that God loves all of His children. “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:21, ESV). I believe we need to look at people as those made in God’s image and realize we are all fallen creatures in a fallen world, but the love of the Father will never leave us or forsake us.
We are also all unique. So, share the love of Christ to the least of these and see the gifts and talents in all people. We need to rethink our relationships with our brothers and sisters as well. We need to believe in our brothers and sisters, like my mom believed in me, and walk like Christ beside them. A beautiful picture is this: taking a hand of a child to show them who they are, what their purpose is, and how God’s beauty is portrayed through what they can do.