I enjoyed reading about a luncheon visit Joni Eareckson Tada had with a group of inner-city pastors from Chicago. As many of you know, Joni was left paralyzed many years ago from a diving accident. As she talked about disability ministry with these inner-city pastors, she couldn't help wondering, "Now am I supposed to say African-American?' Or would they prefer black?' Hmmm . . .it's OK," she thought, "to say people of color.' " Joni thought about her husband, Ken, who is of Japanese descent. His mother prefers the word "oriental" while he prefers "Asian," but his dad liked the term "Japanese-American."
Joni continued talking to the pastors about the subject of disabilities. The subject of color didn't come up. Later on when the subject of Hispanic churches was discussed, Joni says she got a tad tongue-tied between the words "Hispanic" and "Latino." She decided then to ask the pastors how they wished to be referred to, whether as "black" or "African-American."
To her surprise, they slapped the table and laughed out loud. The pastors had been wrestling with some questions of their own. During lunch, they had watched Joni being fed a sandwich by her friend. They wondered, "Now when we refer to her, are we supposed to say handicapped?' Or physically challenged?' I know we're not supposed to refer to her as a cripple or an invalid. But which is it?"
One of the pastors said, "We were itching to know all during lunch how you wanted to be called . . .all those fancy terms ... we didn't want to say the wrong thing and were wondering what was right!" Together, Joni and these pastors had a good laugh over their mutual awkwardness.
Will we ever come to the point when we see other people simply as human beings? Will we ever come to the point when we look beyond our differences and see each other as children of God?