Wednesday, August 26, 2015

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” – Proverbs 3:27

Whatever the type of work and calling we might follow, there exists every day the opportunity to create good, to lift up and to bring light. In some lines of work, it may be challenging at the end of the day to reflect back and know the good that has been done. But that can never be said of those whose calling it is to support people who need assistance in order to enjoy a meaningful day and to reach their full potential.

There is, for many of our direct support professionals, a moment of unique privilege, when the people they support ask, expectantly and hopefully, “Be here tomorrow?” These professionals have the daily experience of living out St. Paul’s counsel, “Therefore, encourage one another, build one another up.”

During September, we will take particular note of those who encourage and build up, during Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week. These professionals are the people who carry out, with preparation, forethought, and compassion, the mission of advocating and providing opportunities to enjoy a full life.

One theologian has written, “From a missional perspective, the church is charged not only with inviting people with disabilities into its community but also bringing them in and honoring their contributions.”

Often it is our Direct Support Professionals who literally bring into the church—and the larger community—people with disabilities and all they contribute. In doing so, these professionals help the larger community to move aside those barriers—social, political, and structural—that may have hindered us from being hospitable and welcoming to everyone.

Fr. Henri Nouwen was a prolific author and theologian who also had the formative experience of providing direct support to people with disabilities in the L’Arche community. Informed by that experience, he wrote that all ministry is a caring attentiveness to others and a grateful receiving of the variety of gifts that are manifested.

Many of our direct support professionals would also assert that, in giving their caring attention, they too have received a variety of gifts and blessings, more than they could ever have anticipated; they have been blessed in being a blessing to others. “Gratitude flows from the recognition that all that is, is a divine gift born out of love and freely given to us so that we may offer thanks and share it with others.”

So, this month, especially, we honor the advocacy of our Direct Support Professionals, their compassion and their caring attentiveness. May they let their light shine, and may we follow their example to move aside every barrier in the path to full participation and inclusive community, for everyone!

Gracious and sovereign God,

You have blessed us with the power to do good, and have commanded us to bring water to those who thirst, food to those who hunger, and freedom to those who are oppressed. Strengthen the work of all who labor among those in need, encourage those who fulfill the hopes of their brothers and sisters, and embolden those who advocate for all whom the world would ignore. Accept our thanks for the work of all your faithful people who are called to support others, sustain in them a sense of fulfillment and joy in their labor, and import to them the assurance that those who labor in you will never labor in vain. May all that we do be done in love, as you sent your Son to show us. Amen.

The Rev. Dr. Jim Fruehling
Vice President of Behavioral and Spiritual Supports