Turning toward love

At the end of April Redeemer West Side’s Agora: Conversations for the Common Good hosted a conversation between author Amy Julia Becker and her friend and fellow author, Andy Crouch, on the themes of her recent book, White Picket Fences, a meditation on what she’s learned about privilege as the mother of a daughter with Down Syndrome.

“The evening reminded me of a wonderful multi-course meal or a symphony with multiple movements,” said West Side Senior Pastor David Bisgrove, who welcomed the crowd on behalf of the West Side congregation. “Some aspects chal-lenged the mind. Others the heart. But in the end there was a sense of beauty that inspired everyone in attendance to live out of the better angels of their nature.”

Becker began by describing her own journey as a mother of a child with special needs, and her reflections on privilege from that perspective. “Over time,” Becker says, “as I came to recognize the tremendous gift that Penny is, I recognized that as a person of privilege, I have also been cut off from the wonder, beauty, and wholeness of humanity, our full human diversity. I had been cut off from those things by my privilege.”

Her thoughts were punctuated by talks from Hope For New York affiliates Do For One and Young Life Upper West Side’s Capernaum, both organizations that work to build bridges between people with and without disabilities on the Upper West Side. Then she and Crouch talked together about the themes of White Picket Fences and took questions from the crowd.

For Becker, the highlight of the night was hearing about a local basketball league in which typically developing high school students play ball with kids and adults with disabilities. Their coach had been invited to the evening by Young Life Capernaum. “I loved the sense of reciprocity that ran throughout the whole evening — that true relationships are ones in which everyone benefits,” says Becker.
Andrew Oliver, founder and director of Do For One, said that the event was different from others he’d attended because it wasn’t about solving people’s problems: “It was about the need for meeting in a mutual place where we can all experience healing.”

But for many that night, including Crouch, the highlight was a reading of a poem by Lenny Dominguez, a young man living with disability who has formed strong friendships through Do For One. He wasn’t able to read his poem as quickly as a typically abled person might, but all the guests that night had been given copies of his poem to follow along, and as he read, a palpable bond developed between him and the members of the audience.

“Relationships don’t always work out as it is,” Dominguez read, “because we can all break apart from each other.

“I don’t know if many people feel that way, being lonely. Do you feel that way? Like you’re stuck on an island?

“Relationships Are An Everlasting Love & It Lasts Forever from Sundown Until The Break Of Dawn.

“People Need To Come Together As A Family, Find Peace & Work Together So They Can Bring Justice Around The World.

“What would justice look like in New York City, or in my home?

“What do you think?”

“As Lenny read his poem in the context of his friendships with others in the room,” says Crouch, “it really felt, at least for a few minutes, that we were in a completely unlonely place. I’ll remember that for a long time.”

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Articles in this Issue

Loving the stranger
Michael Keller
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Gospel humility and the compassion of Christ
Peter Ong
Embodying God’s mercy thanks to your generosity