In some respects I can understand how Mary and Joseph felt as they were turned away in Bethlehem; after knocking on every door only to be told, "Move on, there's no room here".
Mary was laboring and heavy with child. A donkey ride would not provide much relief.
While my labor is of a different sort, it is still just that: Labor. Hard and difficult, and on some days brutal--sometimes the only relief I find is a kind word or smile from a random stranger, recognizing that I do exist.
As a mother of four children with special needs and a husband with a now recognized disability, unable to work, our path is less travelled. I am the donkey bearing the burden of modern day therapies, special diets, medication management, and seeing that society accepts them for who they are. My goal is to help them be a productive member of society someday.
The road is dusty, and not many have been here before. My back is sore, my feet hurt, but I plod along just as the donkey that carried the Christ child in Mary's womb, pressing forward.
On particular trying days, I wonder if it is worth it.
Anyone who has a child with a disability can attest to the constant stress and worry it brings. The grief process visits often and sometimes stays for dinner.
And then I am reminded of our Savior who bore the burden for All.
Years ago, children with disabilities would have been institutionalized because there was no room for them in society. I still see this today, but in a different sense. In schools, the 'least of these among us' are in small closets or halls because there is no room for them and not enough funding to give them the education they need. A lot of parents do not have the energy, time or money to put up a fight. How can I expect the school system to ease my burden when they have to see to the needs of the majority of the children? Perhaps they do the best they can, but it's still not sufficient for the child with special needs.
As a mother, it is my job to help my child navigate the world and fit into society. It is my job to see that their needs are met, that their physical, mental, emotional, financial, and spiritual needs are being nourished. That job becomes difficult when you struggle with the very basics of everyday living. Food on the table, clothes on your back and shelter overhead are your number one priorities. Of course, this in and of itself, separates you from most other people.
Sometimes opportunities are placed before us and we don't recognize them as a way to serve. Perhaps that child or person with a disability or mental illness is our path to learning and growth. It is not their fault, they did not deserve this. They are here to teach us about unconditional love, but it is you that needs to open that door.
At this time of year when we reflect and contemplate the birth of our Savior, I ask that you seek out a family struggling with mental or physical disabilities. Let them know that YOU know they exist. Stop and think what our Savior would do with the "least of these among us". They would be the first that the Savior would welcome to his knee, this I know. These people are miracles who continue to amaze me with their insight and unconditional love, in spite of their own difficult challenges. Because of this, my so called "burden" is a joy to carry.
Let them know that with YOU, there IS room at the inn.