I miss Kenny. He was one of my biggest supporters at church. Kenny was 68 years old. Kenny provided weekly commentary on my sermons. If he thought the sermon was on target, he shared that sentiment. And if he thought it was not quite up to par, he shared that too. At first I was tempted not to take him seriously. You see Kenny was mentally challenged.
As time went on, I learned that being mentally challenged does not mean that you cannot provide some mental challenge to others. Kenny was a sharp guy in many ways. He was perceptive about people. He was in tune with what we were trying to accomplish at church at a much greater level than the average member, because he paid careful attention to what was going on around him. I received regular commentary on ministry programs or on other efforts we were trying to promote. Kenny made me think.
It is unfortunate that we think mentally challenged adults have little to offer the organizations of society that we are all a part of. We make tasteless jokes about “riding the short bus” to school. We call each other “retards” when we want to be derogatory. But the very people that we are inclined to ridicule could teach us a lot, if we are willing to pay attention.
Kenny was a kind man. I never ever heard him make a disparaging comment about another person. Not ever. I can’t say about myself. Kenny modeled good behavior to me.
Every week at church there is a fresh flower arrangement positioned in front of the podium that I use to put my sermon notes on. I don’t know a tulip from a rose. But Kenny did. He made a point to take in the beauty of the arrangement every week and in turn make comments about the kind of flowers that were included. Kenny taught me something about appreciating the finer things in life.
His funeral service is Friday. There will be no shortage of good things to say about his life. Yes he was mentally challenged. But he also never ceased to challenge me on a mental level. Don’t make premature assumptions about people based on your perceptions about their mental capacity. You might be wrong. And you might fail to learn some valuable life lessons.
I hope the flowers at Kenny’s funeral are beautiful. And I plan to take special note of the arrangements. I think he would be pleased…I miss Kenny. He was one of my biggest supporters at church.