Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated to serve the poor. As Keller points out in Chapter 5 of Generous Justice, most people know they should share with others and help the poor, but they lack the motivation. So how do we get motivated? How do we go from simply seeing the needs to filling the needs? Keller points to Genesis 1:26-27 to show where we should get our motivation. The passage says: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him…” Being created in the image of God means that every human life is sacred and should be treated with dignity and respect. As Keller puts it, “The image of God carries with it the right to not be mistreated or harmed.”
Each of our programs takes Genesis 1:26-27 to heart and treats all individuals with dignity and respect. Recently I heard a story from In His Image that I think perfectly illustrates how much reaching out to the marginalized and treating them with dignity and respect can help them grow towards their full potential.
“Every child, every person needs to know that they are a source of joy; every child, every person, needs to be celebrated. Only when all of our weaknesses are accepted as part of our humanity can our negative, broken self-images be transformed.” ― Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
We had a student whose name was Sara. When she came to In His Image, her parents had reached the end of their rope. They called her names like ‘this mad one’ and ‘stupid’, and in return Sara acted out very violently. Sara was known to act out at school where she would sometimes stand on a chair and strike at the teacher, aiming for her chin. Sara’s parents couldn’t put her in mainstream school, and they couldn’t handle taking care of her all day, so they came to In His Image. All they wanted when they came to In His Image was a break from their differently-abled child. They were tired and simply wanted a few free hours everyday. So, we sat with them and discussed what it would take for Sara to join us at In His Image. Quickly they agreed to our terms and Sara joined our school.
As soon as Sara stepped through our doors we treated her with dignity and respect. All our staff spoke very kindly of her in her presence. We showed her love and in return her violent behaviors dissipated, and she slowly began to come out of her shell and love others. As Sara became more familiar with the school, we began to give her some responsibilities to work with younger students. It was so beautiful to see her blossom because of all the love showered over her.
Sara quickly earned a nickname around the center. We all called her ‘little mother’ because of how caring and helpful she was. As one of the older students she was always trying to help other students, especially the younger ones. Once, we found several of the other students notebooks in her backpack. We asked Sara how they ended up in her bag and she replied “I took them to do their homework, to help them!” It was an interesting and unexpected incident, but it showed us that finally when we started loving her, she responded to that love by loving others. She has transformed into a truly beautiful girl before our very eyes.
We are so thankful for opportunities like this to see students grow and blossom beyond what others may have anticipated.