Recently I read an article that said, “My sibling has a disability and no one wants to be their friend.” Oh how my heart ached when I read that. I felt like I had been punched in the gut once again with memories of desperately seeking out friendships for my brother, Matthew, who has cerebral palsy, ADHD, and learning disabilities. I have quietly wrestled with this challenge throughout my childhood and into adulthood. I don’t know of anyone that wants to see their sibling friendless, with or without a disability.
I would ask guys I know to meet my brother thinking that they would be a good connection for him and maybe draw him out of his little corner of the world. But it never worked. They would respond with “Yeah, I totally want to meet your brother and hang out. We should schedule that. Give me a call and we will work it out.” Or, “Have your brother give me a call and I will make time.” I can say without fail that I left every single conversation knowing that the guys would never follow through. It was lip service. And unfortunately, this was within the church. Finding a friend for my brother in the church that could come alongside him and guide him was worse than trying to find a needle in a haystack. I think I would have had a better chance of finding that needle.
I would like to say that I am not angry about it but, honestly, I can be at times. I truly just wanted a guy to have a conversation with my brother and then see if they could connect him to someone else if they didn’t think being his friend or buddy (whatever you want to call it) would work for them. I know it’s not easy being his friend. He lives in a different world than most people, but he is just like everyone else when it comes to wanting friends. The pain of repeated rejection sits constantly at the door of my heart when I think about how many times I have asked guys to just reach out to my brother. I always thought my request was simple, a plea from the heart of a sibling, “Will you be a friend to my brother, Matthew?” In the last several years I have stopped asking. At this point it seems pointless. I’ve been praying even more that some how, some way the Lord will make it possible for my brother to have friends that can encourage him and make time for him at church.
So, I have a challenge for you: In your church, if there is someone with a disability and they don’t have a friend, please befriend them or find them a friend. If you know of someone in your church who has a sibling with a disability, ask them if their sibling needs a friend. Befriend their sibling or find them a friend or buddy for their time at church. You never know how this will impact the sibling as well as the person with the disability.
Becky Bernier is the Administrative Assistant to the Charlotte Joni and Friends Area Ministry. Click to read Becky’s full bio.