Colleen and I have been friends since our girls were in preschool. We first met at church and began teaching children’s Sunday School together. We always used the curriculum provided, but tried to add extra fun to each class, like our song, “Exercise,” to help the kids release their pent-up energy. Miraculously, after that song break, kids were always ready to buckle down and dig into Sunday School.
Our girls played well together. One weekend, when I had a speaking engagement at a church about an hour and a half from our homes, Colleen and I traveled together with our kids. We checked into a hotel in late afternoon and went roller skating after supper, since there really was nothing else to do in that little town. All of us had a blast, and Colleen and I were happy no one recognized us – we were a pretty silly bunch! My speaking engagement went well the next day, and we all returned home, both exhausted and refreshed.
We sometimes laugh together till we cry; we pray together for our families and rejoice at God’s provision.
Colleen and I have also been involved in each other’s service projects. We organized teams to collect baby products for the Crisis Pregnancy Center, for which she volunteered. We helped each other find homes for our gently used Christian books and tapes. And when I started working at Joni and Friends, she was my local church representative. I armed her with her own well-stocked disability toolkit, and she visited churches around her area, introducing them to the ministry. She and her grandkids even made signs for one of our Walk ‘N’ Rolls, and members of her family raised money while walking in it.
Why do I enjoy my friendship with Colleen so much? It is the fact that she welcomes my friendship just as much as I welcome hers. We don’t hesitate to ask each other to get involved in our projects. We continue to pray together a lot, ask each other for advice, and cultivate our friendship. We depend on each other’s talents. My blindness has never been an issue between us, and never once has she questioned if I could tackle something or pitied me; she expects me to find a way to conquer it. In my opinion, that’s what a welcoming friend is all about.
One is loved and appreciated for who she is, not treated differently because of a disability. Can you think of a woman with a disability that you could get to know better, so you, too, can be a welcoming friend? If you have a disability and are longing to find a welcoming woman friend, what steps can you take to find one?
Judy Redlich serves as Church Relations Manager at the Joni and Friends Missouri Area Ministry.