Many high school students with autism or Down syndrome feel excluded and ignored. They often eat alone in a crowded cafeteria because other students don’t know how to relate to them or simply don’t care. To address this need, speech therapist Barbara Palilis began “Circle of Friends”—a program that pairs students with disabilities with nondisabled peers for lunch dates and social activities. Through this outreach, special-needs students and those nondisabled peers who befriend them continue to be enriched and changed through the gift of acceptance, friendship, and understanding.
Being included is at the heart of the gospel of Christ. “God, who is rich in mercy, . . . even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:4-5). Through faith in Christ, we “who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (v.13).
Our privileged place as members of the “household of God” (v.19) should give us eyes to see and hearts to care for those around us who are ignored and alone. If each of us would reach out in caring friendship to one person today, what a difference it would make for us all.
Reach out in friendship and encourage the lonely; energize the weary. (RBC)