They sit waiting–my children and this party of their best friends, a huddled, cross-legged, patchwork group in costumes as vibrant and varied as they. Even with the house lights dim, I see the startling glint of silver sequins, a neon vest, leotards and athletic jerseys. I slip into a chair and just smile, holding my program, glancing from the list of acts–everything from song and dance to a presentation about sanitation–to the kids and their performance-ready dazzle.
Adam steps around the partition and takes the microphone from his teacher, smiling. I used to form my fist into a microphone for pretend and thrust it in front of his lips just to hear him sing about three words–the softest notes, dull like they were wrapped in cotton—before he’d say NO in an incredulous tone and push my hand away. Now, Adam marches to the center of the room, grinning over the top of his script. He welcomes us broadly, that deep voice safe, and announces the first performance, a movie review by a young man I consider to be a friend. I never enter a room that he doesn’t notice and warmly greet me, and then the whole time I’m around, he continuously acknowledges me with jokes and affection. He has the unique ability to obliterate invisibility. And right now, my young friend tweaks his red bow tie with his thumbs and starts telling us about SING, the characters, the places. Movies are his thing.
My friend wears his incongruities like that tie, boldly. It’s okay to be really talented in some things and not so strong in others. Here, at least, it’s okay to struggle one day and beam the next. Here, words like disabled and disorder have become meaningless, replaced by the notion that all of us are able in different ways. Differently-abled, those are the words on the sign, tacked to the weathered wood siding like a beacon.
Our movie reviewer pauses, waiting for his next slide, and another of their friends, watching the show from our table, pushes his eyeglasses up on his nose with one finger. Lifting an arm in the air, he calls my friend by name. “You can do it!” He says right out loud, mistaking the silence for anxiety crumbling the edges of things. This encourager doesn’t stop to wonder over audience decorum, could care less that the rest of us are listening. He is keenly sensitive to a feeling he knows well, to the possibility of sudden fear.
My friend flicks his eyes toward us, avoiding a glimpse of the whole room, and smiles gently, acknowledging the encouragement. Then the slide changes, and he focuses again on the screen. They will be like this with each other throughout the show, all of them friends who celebrate each other, friends who understand. Their applause for each other is contagious; their encouragement open and generous; their appreciation inspiring. They are courageous enough to be shy—one young lady sings an entire song softly with her back turned to us, only peeking occasionally over her shoulder; vulnerable enough to be off-key, off-beat, and out-of-sync; and safe enough to share what they can do without hiding their trouble. These are the kids who elsewhere would be mocked; but here, not a single person finishes feeling less.
They teach us more than we could ever teach them.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
…Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
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!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 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, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.