When I was only twelve years old, I had an experience at church that has prompted many thoughts over the years. Between church services, I was put in a position where I felt the need to help my brother navigate a sticky situation due to his disability. I honestly don’t remember what the situation was, but what I do recall was the youth worker who approached me with the admonishment, “You are not your brother’s keeper.” Rather than expressing compassion for what I dealt with on a daily basis, her words came out harsh and angry, coated in an attitude of impatience and indignation.
The truth is, I am a critical component of my brother’s care team. I always have been, and in all reality, I always will be. As I reflect on this situation, I can’t help but wonder, “Who, if not me?”
- Who’s going to help my brother when he falls?
- Who’s going to smooth out a rough situation he gets into because he doesn’t understand social cues?
- Who’s going to make sure he has money to eat on a youth trip because the youth workers don’t understand that he will spend any money he has on video games instead of food?
- Who’s going to stand up to other kids who are bullying him?
Who, if not me? I am my brother’s keeper. I will always be his keeper. When you have a sibling with a disability, the protective side of you is strong—stronger than you realize most days. Besides your parents, you are probably the one who cares most deeply for your sibling. Even through times of frustration, utter embarrassment, arguments, and fatigue, I will always be my brother’s keeper.
I’m sure the youth worker meant well on that Sunday morning all those years ago. But as a sibling, I only heard anger and frustration with a lack of understanding and compassion.
My prayer today for any siblings reading this post is that you love your brother or sister well. Knowing that it is okay to struggle with being their keeper. May you continually rely on the Lord for his strength and wisdom on how to be your brother or sister’s keeper. I also pray that you will have grace for those who decide to share what they believe are well meaning thoughts to you without fully understand the scope of your family life.
My prayer for any adult reading this post, whether you are a ministry leader, volunteer, or parent, is to be kind and gracious with siblings. Talk to them about the role they play in being their brother or sister’s keeper. Take time to learn and understand the role they play within their family.
And may we all have grace for one another as we seek to honor the Lord through our daily lives.
Becky Bernier has been with Joni and Friends since 2013. She serves as the Senior Program Coordinator for the Charlotte Joni and Friends Area Ministry. Becky has a brother with cerebral palsy and developmental delays. Her heart is to minister to families impacted by disabilities – especially typical siblings.