She was child No. 1, born to a very young, married-only-nine-months couple; would be the first of eight. I was No. 2. It wasn’t until I was about 6 that I realized she had “differences.”
We walked to school together, were in the same youth choir at church, the same Sunday school class, played on lazy summer days with the same neighborhood children.
But her skills and development were not keeping up with mine. I watched her struggle with talking, stutter when excited and have trouble doing many things well at all. I watched others giggle and hold one hand over their mouths while the other hand pointed at her.
My older sister, Candy, was born with Down syndrome … and that became a real conundrum for how I perceived God.
In church and Sunday school, I heard all about the God who created the world and everything in it. This God had a plan for all of us and always “worked things for good.”
For me, there was a disconnect of “that God” and the one who created my sister who not only had struggles herself, but caused hardships for my parents.
I spent much of my childhood questioning not only God’s wisdom, but his reality if he indeed had created someone with so many needs and inabilities.
I am not sure when my eyes opened to the treasure that Candy was in this existence, that Candy was one of “the least of these” in Matthew 25. She was always ready with a hug and smile, and I would notice the joy that brought to others.
Or when I watched my own children enlarge their worlds as they grew up with “Aunt Candy” playing games and coloring with them … and I saw how patient and sweet they were with her and her with them.
Because of growing up with Candy, my eyes were more aware to the needs of others and able to encompass a much broader world, my hands more open and outstretched and willing to busy themselves with someone with different needs than mine … and my faith deeper and more layered with love and compassion and the desire to serve others.
Regardless of when it happened, I did eventually “get it” that in our world there are many “imperfect” people in our human eyes, but they are not mistakes. And God doesn’t plan to take care of them all by himself.
Candy died toward the end of her 63rd year this past summer. We celebrated her life in my childhood church, along with upwards of 1,000 people. I listened to person after person tell of how Candy had touched their lives.
I was reminded that God had not and does not goof up. He truly does have a plan for us in everything and often creates much “good” by inviting us into that plan.
I am so blessed and so grateful that I didn’t miss the plan of Candy.
Susan Kelley, one of The Star’s 13 Faith Walk writers, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.