Written by Jennifer Brownell
"I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine." - Song of Solomon 6:3
Prom season arrives, and with it a spate of heartwarming stories in which a head cheerleader or star football player invites a disabled classmate to the big dance. Now, I'm sure that the cheerleader and the football player are decent and compassionate people. But I can't help but wonder what it would be like to read a headline that said "Autistic Boy Makes Cheerleader's Big Night ‘So Special'" or "Kind-hearted Girl in Wheelchair Takes Football Star Dancing!"
If you meet me (walking) and my husband (rolling beside me in his wheelchair), you may be tempted to write a headline of your own. "Woman Cares for Disabled Man" or perhaps "Very Special Family Manages in Spite of Wheelchair." The truth is, when I met Jeff I wanted to be with him because he was the sexiest person I'd ever known. I loved him because of the thoughtfulness in his beautiful eyes, and because of the way his deep voice contrasted with the tiny sound he made when sneezing, and because of the day he was really, truly, actually heartbroken when the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia died. So if you see us and you're tempted to write a headline, try one of these: "Amazing Man in Wheelchair Loves Woman Who Cannot Balance Checkbook!" or "Inspiring Wheelchair Guy Still Married to Wife Who Cries for No Reason!"
We chose each other. Not because one of us is kinder, more loving or somehow more wonderfully inspiring than the other. But because he is mine and I am his. Over a lifetime our abilities and disabilities balance each other out, day by day, month by month, year by year.
Creator, you made each one of us in your beautiful image. Thank you for that. Help us see your perfection where we sometimes see only brokenness. Amen.
Jennifer Garrison Brownell is the Senior Pastor at Hillsdale Community Church – United Church of Christ in Portland, OR and the author of the forthcoming book, Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath.