It was somewhere back in the 1970s that a man by the name of Lonnie Edwards was a physical education instructor at an elementary school in Georgia. One day Edwards was leading the kids at the elementary school in an exercise that was going to require them to be a part of square dancing. You don’t see much square dancing anymore, but it was actually a part of the school routine to get kids active more than it was to get them going around a square in a dance.
Edwards instructed the children on how they needed to pair off so that they could learn to square dance. He told the kids to line up and began to call their names out. A boy, a girl, a boy, a girl, a boy, a girl. As he did, they were to come forward and be paired up so that they could make the square and do the dance. As he was calling out a boy and a girl, a young girl started to cry. Uncontrollably she cried and then walked away from all the people.
Edwards did not understand what was happening and stopped everything and told everyone to wait a moment. He walked away from the group of kids and approached the young girl. She was a young, 12-year-old child. He noticed she had covered her hands with small towels. He didn’t know what had happened or what the problem was. He knew nothing about her, knew nothing about her background, and with his back to the rest of the students this young girl with her back to the rest of the students, Nancy privately revealed to him that it would not be possible for her to hold hands with a boy.
What she revealed was that she did not have hands. All she had were two pinky fingers and two partial other fingers. Amazingly, after coming to the school, other teachers and most of the kids had not even seen or knew of her hidden deficiency and deformity. She had kept it from other teachers and the kids barely knew about it. The few children who did know of her deficiency had been cruel to her.
When Edwards saw her condition, he was not cruel. He encouraged and challenged her. He said to her, “Nancy, we cannot do anything about this problem, but I can help you overcome it and you can become the best you can be. I want you to hold your head up.” From that moment on, she was challenged by Edwards to no longer use her deficiency as a limitation. Slowly, Nancy gave up the towels and gave them to Edwards. He never returned them. A few days later, when they actually began doing the square dance, Nancy’s partner was Edwards. It wasn’t long until all of the children were willing and some of them even eager to touch her hands and to square dance with her.
That incident actually took place back in the 1970s. In the years and now decades that have passed, Edwards continued to encourage Nancy. She is now in her fifties and can do almost anything that anyone else can do. She can do just about everything she puts her mind to, including playing the piano and typing 65 words per minute. She’s married, has four children, and to this day says, “I grew up because of one man.” That man was a caring guy who encouraged her to hold her head up and overcome her limitations.
There are people all around us who have deficiencies. The truth is, a thoughtful, caring touch may help many of them grow up. It is well worth your time and investment because everyone of us, me for sure and possibly most of you, have deficiencies. There are gifts we don’t possess, talents that we don’t have, things that we would like to accomplish and probably won’t because we can’t. We may have fingers missing, or emotions that are scarred and broken.
You may not be able to pull back the towels of your life and reveal your deficiencies, but they are there. They can be seen by others at times and sometimes they are not seen but you know they are there. Be kind to your fellow travelers for each one of them has their own set of deficiencies. We all have deficiencies. Some are visible. Some are hidden, but we’ve got them. Everyone does.
Walking through the Bible, you can see them in everyone. Moses could not speak clearly. Jacob walked with a limp. Zacchaeus stopped growing too fast and he was a short little fella. Paul struggled with whatever that thorn in the flesh was. We have deficiencies.
There are some people who think they don’t have any inefficiencies, but their deficiency may be their gross lack of concern for people who do have deficiencies. A lack of love and care for the deficiencies of others can be problematic in your own life, but others will notice that you are not as helpful as you think you are.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, said, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). Sometimes as we see people stumbling and bumbling through life, just remember they may see us doing the same thing. Be kind to one another. Let Jesus’ love grow up in your heart enough that it might spill over and you might reach out and hold the hand of someone who is not as strong or helpful as you are.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jim Futral