As a mother of a child with disabilities, my favorite scripture stories tend to be about those where brothers and sisters carry each other. The story in Mark, chapter 2, is a beautiful example of this, and I love reading about the four people who carry a man with palsy to Christ. While they can’t get close enough to Jesus because there are so many people, they uncover the roof where He is and carefully lower their friend on his bed to be healed and blessed by the Savior. Every time I read about their efforts, I am inspired by the love and compassion they showed this man.
I also marvel at the story in 3 Nephi when Jesus looks upon the multitude and says: “Have ye any that are sick among you? ... Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy” (3 Nephi 17:7). I imagine the multitude looking around and gathering their loved ones in their arms and carrying them down the path, step by step, to be healed at the feet of the resurrected Lord.
These stories remind me of how much we truly need each other: To carry, we must be prepared to bare the weight and be willing to do what has never been done before. To be carried, we must have the faith to know that miracles await us and be ready to arrive at the feet of our Savior.
As we prepare to send our children into the world, whether that be starting school, going to church, leaving on missions, or beginning careers, there will be times when they, too, will have an opportunity to assist in carrying their brothers and sisters. As I raise my child with disabilities, I have been blessed by other mothers, fathers, and their children who know what it looks like to metaphorically carry loved ones to the Savior. Their efforts bless my life and strengthen me to face another day. With this in mind, here are five ways you can teach your children to similarly assist in the Savior’s call to carry:
- Invite and include: Encourage your children to invite everyone to birthday parties or get-togethers as much as possible. Be aware of children with disabilities in your child’s class, ward, and neighborhood, and offer a personal invitation to them and their parents to come to the next event you’re planning. Let these parents know that their child is truly loved and wanted at the gathering and ask if there is anything you can do to make it possible for their child to attend. For instance, it can be helpful to let the child’s older sibling or parent attend the party with them, or the child may need to wear headphones if the party gets too loud. Express that you’re willing to make small changes to the plans if it helps everyone participate.
- Point out similarities: You can help your children build bridges of friendship and inclusion by pointing out the similarities you see between them and their peers with disabilities. Whether they enjoy the same taste in fashion, food, music, TV shows, games, or other activities, you can help them see they have a lot in common. This can create opportunities for bonding rather than spending time thinking about perceived differences.
- Teach your children how to offer help: Individuals with disabilities know what they have learned to accomplish independently and what they need assistance with. Because of this, it is best to ask them if there is anything you can help with and then respect their response. It is not kind or respectful to step in when your help is unwanted or unneeded. We can teach our children to simply say, “If you need anything, I’m here to help!” and then listen to and respect the response. It is that simple.
- Help advocate: As a parent of children with disabilities, I can tell you that at times it can be daunting to be the only one who asks for my child to be included, for accommodations to be made, or for others to see the value of them being welcome to field trips, outings, and other activities. You can help by teaching your child to express to teachers and leaders a desire to have their friends with disabilities included in activities both at school and at church. Their willingness to change plans, give up small details, or help a child with disabilities succeed at the activity because they are wanted there can make all the difference in helping everyone feel welcome. Your child’s attitude and willingness to reach out to the one will help leaders and teachers feel more motivated to make activities a welcoming and positive place for everyone.
- Speak and lead by example: In each of these scenarios, the best way we can teach our children is to show them how we expect them to act through our example. We can invite and include, point out the similarities we see in others, offer help and respect boundaries, and be advocates for fellow friends, coworkers, and ward members regardless of their backgrounds or challenges. Doing so shows our children that we are willing to carry our friends and peers alongside us, and it bears our testimony of loving one another through our actions, which are often far more powerful than words.
As I think back to the stories where others carry their loved ones to Christ, my heart yearns to be there. I imagine carrying my little boy on my hip as he giggles along, his weight growing heavier step by step, but still, I would remain determined to arrive at the feet of the Master Healer and trust my son and his fate to Him. I would ask the Savior to heal His eyes, perfect his beating heart, strengthen his muscles, and calm his anxieties. I would pray that Zane’s nearly perfect spirit and beautiful personality could be housed in an equally vibrant body. It is then that I see myself looking into Jesus’s eyes and requesting a miracle, and in doing so I find that another miracle has already occurred—because by bringing my son to the Savior, I have also drawn closer to Him.
The same is true for all of us; it is impossible to bring another to the feet of Jesus Christ without finding ourselves kneeling before Him as well. So as we teach our children to assist in the carrying, we can trust that they will not be missing out on other good things because they will also be developing their own personal relationship with Christ.
There will be days when we are each called to assist in carrying others to be healed through the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ. There will also be days that our hearts will ache, our heads will hang low, and we will need to rely on others to carry us to Him. In both cases, loving one another, pure humility, and a willingness to serve our fellowman will bring us closer and closer to Christ—and together, we will see miracles.