**Companion Resources Newsletter**
edited by Paul D. Leichty
Volume 2, No. 9 September 2000
“We have this treasure in jars of clay…” – Paul
Working daily and intensely with persons with special needs can be a big challenge. It can also reveal many things about oneself. I’ll share a few reflections in this month’s Companion Resources Newsletter. But first a word about matters of time and money.
All of us live this life in bodies that are weak and perishable. We are like the jars of clay about which the great Christian preacher Paul wrote. Clay jars were the ordinary containers of ancient times. Most of us are indeed ordinary. Some of our “containers” may be more attractive. Some may be “broken.” But all of us are weak and perishable.
It is awesome to think about the small differences in our lives that make a huge difference. Why does my body make a certain protein and my son’s does not? Why can some people think in such abstract concepts and the person with autism can think only in pictures? Why can some persons walk away from what looks like a major accident with hardly a scratch and others end up paralyzed for life? Why do some people end up with extra genes or even extra nucleotides within a gene that leads most people to think they are strange? The difference between most people and the people we call “different” is really very small although the consequences can be great.
Yet for each person there is a “treasure” in those clay jars. There is some spark, some light, something that makes that person uniquely human. The Judeo-Christian tradition has called that the “image of God” and set it at the heart of what it means to be human. We have a treasure in jars of clay. It doesn’t matter whether our jars are attractive or ordinary, nicely shaped or broken. Something of God, something that makes us uniquely human is buried deep in our souls.
As I live and work with persons who find it difficult to communicate that treasure for themselves, I am reminded how weak I am in seeing that treasure. It is so easy to get caught up in the brokenness, the problems, and the disabilities. It is so easy to get carried away with our own supposed competence and strengths.
Yet the difficulties that I have in relating to persons is not just their fault. I have to do my best to communicate, but I also need to take more time to simply listen. I am so weak myself when it comes to taking the time and putting forth the energy to understand the meaning of body language, the look in the eyes of another, the communication cues that are not verbal. And yet how quickly those same persons sense my own brokenness and my anxieties, seem to know when I am happy or when I am irritated.
I am sometimes even getting back a reaction to my own inner being, a reaction that I don’t like that irritates me further. But if I can get beyond the jars of clay, I discover the presence of God who shows me the treasure in both the other person and in myself. Sometimes that treasure is right there in the weakest part of me.
So I’m learning to rejoice in the jars of clay. I’m learning to realize that there is treasure within those jars, even the ones I think least likely to teach me anything. I certainly haven’t arrived at all the answers, but I am learning about what it means to be human with all of its strengths and weaknesses.
Life is sometimes a struggle, a struggle to deal appropriately with our weaknesses and allow the light of God in others to turn those weaknesses into strength. That shows again why we need each other in community. None of us are self-sufficient. We are all weak and needy. But the great mystery is how in giving of ourselves, even in our weaknesses, we find strength.
I wish all of you this strength of community as you serve others in the month ahead.
Blessings to all as you build community together!
Paul D. Leichty
The Goldenrod Community
“People Using Technology Building Community”