I once met a high school boy with Down Syndrome. I was in my early twenties at the time. It was apparent to me that I was more intelligent than him, more capable than him, definitely older than him. I talked to him for a little while, I was feeling a little hobnobish that day, and mostly talked to him out of boredom instead of compassion. It only took me a few minutes to realize that this high school, handicapped kid was, in fact, my spiritual superior. At first I was incensed, he loved everybody, gave hugs to people he didn’t know. He listened to people and although he often didn’t understand them he definitely listened to them and, if pressed, could relay his version of what they said. He offered to help people without being asked. If someone needed help moving sandwiches or a birthday cake he always offered to help. He might drop something on accident but that didn’t stop him from being willing. He was kind, I never heard him backtalk to anyone in authority.
Not only was Kevin virtuous he was authentic. What you saw in Kevin was what you got.
He was Jesus with Down Syndrome. Looking back I am still amazed by him. He was as loving as a person could be and at eighteen was a spiritual giant in this world.
God could care less if he dropped a donut or spilt his milk. It didn’t matter that his speech was sometimes unintelligible, or that he couldn’t read very well, it didn’t stop him from offering to read in Bible study. But Kevin wasn’t stupid. He could tell if he was being made fun of, but he didn’t get mad at the kids that made fun of him even though he had every right to be angry. He walked away and talked to someone else and after talking to him for ten minutes you might not have understood half of what Kevin said but you definitely liked him. Why? Because he loved you just the way you were.
Kevin did not struggle with authenticity. He was truly a man of his word. He didn’t lie or put on aires, something that I have been know to do.
One of the clearest examples of this was when Kevin prayed. He told God exactly what he felt. He told God “I scared I won’t do good school.” “Help Stephanie, she sick.” “I love you God.” How different were my prayers? I knew all the Christian phrases. How many prayers have I prayed that were superfluous. “My Father God, I am grateful for your many blessings. Help us to glorify you in this place as we share this time with our brothers and sisters in you. And blah blah blah. It is amazing how I could string together phrases that sounded good but meant that I was stuck up suburban Christian who would rather watch a kid get run over than let people see the real me. You know why? Because despite my many years of faith, I was a dwarf looking at that Spiritual Giant with Down Syndrome.
He wasn’t critical of you or talking smack behind your back. He loved you, he would help you with anything and would try even though he didn’t have a clue about how to help he tried.
Here I am with a “genius” level IQ in verbal reasoning, I can weld steel, create art, drive a car, write a book, and all sorts of other feats. But Spirituality, something that I have invested thousand s of hours developing, I was shown up by a kid that was barely eighteen.
God doesn’t look at the frivolous stuff, he doesn’t care how we look, or how much money we make. He cares if we are like Kevin, who will never make a lot of money, will probably die young due to heart trouble, and will show the world what it is like to follow Christ. Kevin made following Christ look natural, not easy, but attainable. He really did have the heart of Christ.