Some friends got together as they often did just for a cup of coffee and some conversation. It was clear that one of the group was having a tough day. He hardly raised his eyes, looking at his coffee as it swirled in his cup. He friends noticed his atypical quietness.
"Something bothering you?" one of them asked.
"I am not having a good day" he replied. "I don't like the way people treat me sometimes. I don't understand them."
The friends looked at him with concern. Sure he was someone with an intellectual disability, but he always seemed friendly, happy, ebullient.
"I don't get these people. Who do they think I am?" he asked in a moment of clarity.
"Some people think you are a child. That's why they teach you with flannel graphs and puppets." one friend responded.
"Some people think you are just not a nice person. That you or your family have done something bad, so you are the way you are." said another.
"I think some people think you are different from them. That is why they put you away from them with people they think are different because of their impairment, their disability. They think they are doing you a favor by separating you and treating you differently."
"Some people think you have nothing to give. That's why they don't let you be with everyone else."
"Some people are afraid of you. Because they don't know you, they worry about what you might do."
The man paused in thought as they looked at him with concern.
"But what about you. Who do you think, I mean, who do you say that I am?"
One bold friend quickly spoke up. "You are the same as me. You are the image of God, a person with purpose, gifted in a unique way so that you can contribute to the Body of Christ. We can't do without you, and we should be showing you special honor such that your gifts might be seen and felt by the church. You are the same as anybody else."
"People have not told me that before. But I hope that is who God says I am" he replied.