Are You Afraid Of Your Brother?

February 7, 2017
by June Heale

Have you ever been asked that poignant question? One day on my way home from elementary school, a girl asked me that. Not being one of the more popular kids in town, I immediately became defensive and replied, "Are you afraid of your brother?" Her reply being "No", I then came back with "Well, I'm not afraid of my brother either."

What prompted the question is that my brother was born mentally challenged. In those days, they called him "retarded". Sadly, my beloved brother got stared at often when he was out anywhere. Perhaps you, too, have felt the stigma surrounding mental health. Sadly, it still exists today, but thank God, people are changing their attitudes and becoming more tolerant of those who are different.

Vernon was the fifth child in a family of nine, and we all loved him. He truly was special. Sadly, after a short while in Grade 1 in a rural country school, he was sent home with the message that he could not learn. In spite of what the school system declared, Vernon did learn some things at home. Living on a farm, he had chores like the rest of the family. He chopped wood, carried water, and helped feed the animals.

Here is what I read in the Bible:

Matthew 25:40 – The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." (NIV 2011)

2 Timothy 1:7 – For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (NKJV)

In this world, Jesus said, everyone is our brother or sister, and mentally challenged individuals are not people that we should be afraid of. Rather we need to try and understand them, to help them, and to love them. They breathe, eat, have feelings just like the rest of us. I am thankful that today, the mentally challenged are more accepted now than they were in the years when my parents were told that he could not learn.

Matthew 22:39b – You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (NKJV)

When mother passed on, Vernon looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, "Mom is with God, June." Even mentally challenged individuals are capable of a simple, childlike faith. They are precious in the sight of the Lord.

Our beloved brother went home to be with God in 2010.

I can't help but think of brotherly love as commanded by God. We are instructed to love one another — not just blood brothers or sisters, but neighbours and strangers, and not just the mentally healthy people either. So, if you encounter one of God's children who is facing a challenge, think on this. Don't shun them as my brother was shunned. Open your heart to those who are different. You will be rewarded not just by the love of the mentally challenged person, but by our Lord.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we come to You in prayer, asking that You lay it on the hearts of Your people to be more loving to all, and to put forth that extra effort to those among us who are considered different or mentally challenged. We know that You love each and every one of us, and not just the healthy ones. Everyone has worth in Your eyes. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

About the author:

June Heale <jinnybug@shaw.ca>
Bowser, British Columbia, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Good reminder June. God bless.


    Thank you for this beautiful devotional!


    I remember how you all loved and cared for him so much June.


    Hi June
    I thought this was a lovely devotional. I especially liked how you folded in Matt 25. Blessings.


    What a touching DD, June! I have been guilty of looking aside from those who are different. Thank you for a loving reminder that “everyone has worth”. Bless you and you family for bearing such scorn and rejection, but continuing to love. Yours in the Yahweh sisterhood.


    What a poignant story, June. It’s so saddening and disappointing that people treat others by their outside, not looking at the beauty of their inside. Nobody is valueless in this life, the out of order clock is right twice a day.
    Wishing you the best in your writing,


    Oh June, our hearts hurt for those affected and afflicted by mental and physical challenges. My brother was born with Asperger’s Syndrome and my son with Athetoid cerebral palsy. Our family has been among those whose lives were forever changed . . . and blessed by their birth. Thanks for sharing your experience and spiritual insight in this devotional. Blessings.


    Dear June:
    I couldn’t agree with you more. I have the privilege of working with mentally and physically challenged people through our church. I fell in love with them from my first time with them. And do they love Jesus! I am absolutely amazed by them each week.
    Thank so much for sharing your story.


    Thanks for a good word today June. Indeed, times have changed for the better in many ways regarding those born with challenges such as your brother experienced, and may they continue to do so. A number of weeks ago, on Hour of Power, a fellow born with disabilities pointed out that when you put “go” in front of the word disable you get “god is able.” Definitely a truth to embrace!
    Blessings.


    As I read your devotional, I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. I, too, am glad that society has come a long way from fearing individuals that do not act like society expects the physically challenged to act.
    Change comes about by individuals standing up and fighting for those who can’t. If we would just learn that we are all equal in God’s eyes, our world would be a lot better. Thank you for sharing your heartwarming story with us.


    Dear June,
    Thank you for giving the report about your beloved brother. May we all uphold the disadvantaged with prayer and suitable actions. Thank you for sharing your heart of love and speaking up for those who can not often speak up for themselves.
    Keep writing.
    God is love.


    Dear Jinny – sometimes I shudder at what is going in our world and think that progress is “progressing” in the wrong direction. In the case of your dear brother, Vernon, in general, however, society is more tolerant and understanding today. You have given us a gift sharing your story. God doesn’t make mistakes so Vernon had a purpose in life. Perhaps, his purpose was reminding us that God’s love extends to all; perhaps it was the importance of an unquestioningly simple child like faith. Thank you for sharing your story and for reminding us that we are directed to love all our brothers and sisters, not just those who are like us. God bless you.


    Having a nephew who was also mentally challenged and “different”, I enjoyed your meditation. He was the greeter to the Walmart greeter and to many others where he went. He was a big boy with a shambling gait so could be intimidating until he said Hello. Sadly he died at home at the age of 30 after telling his parents “no more doctors”. He was a joy to us and surpassed the initial doctor’s prognosis for his life. When his grandmother died he said she went to the stars just like in The Lion King movie.
    I know he has a special place in heaven because he was a special person.
    God bless you for sharing.


    Dear Jinny Bug (I like your nick name)
    Thank you for sharing from your heart. The world is changing and becoming more accepting and it is because people are starting to share more honestly. In today’s paper a soccer player is sharing about his depression after he retired. In this field mental health is not shared very often but he wants to make a change in this world and he has figured out this is one of the ways to make it happen. We have a family member who is now over 60 and his parents were told to put him in an institution but they didn’t. They took him home and now he works in a protected environment. When his mother died he moved into a home. We all gain by loving him and his happiness at so many things that we miss in our busyness.


    Dear June:
    I appreciated your devotional today. We have had quite a bit of experience with ‘special people’. The simple love and caring they show is touching to the heart. We used to spend quite a bit of time with the people who lived in a group home. Some of us from the church would take our barbeques over and have a fun evening. A couple had adopted down syndrome children. They all know the hymns, they love the Lord and they are kind and friendly to everyone. We could do well to follow their example of acceptance.
    The government, in their wisdom, or lack of it, closed the group homes. These children are now each in their own apartment and as far as I am concerned, it is a lonely life. They have workers that look in on them daily, help with their shopping and meals but when the home was operating the group of peers enjoyed each others company. They always know and embrace those that care for them. They are God’s jewels.
    Blessings.


    Thank you for your devotion. It warms my heart.
    When my wife and I had our only son, we were told shortly after to put him in a home and forget we had him.
    Our response was united without consultation: No way, we will take him home, love him and give him every chance to be a winner.
    He has developed into one of the most well know people in our area. He sees no limits big enough to stop him from reaching his goals.
    His mother died a couple of years ago and I wondered how he would handle it. The first request was to speak at her funeral. He did so well that he received a loud round of applause and a standing ovation.
    Yes at a funeral! When asked how he was doing, he would say: moms in heaven with Jesus and one day I will join her. He has set himself up as a leader to mentally challenged people who haven’t learned how to deal with the situation.
    God bless you as you live with your beautiful memories of both mother and Vernon. Thanks again!!
    (Alberta)

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