Making the Puzzle Complete: Disability in Community
Just as every teacher in the school has the potential to change someone’s life, every student has the potential to shift the air, just a little bit, and change the culture in a school. As a Christ-centered community, we “learn what it means to love and to receive love from all of [our] members,” as John Swinton shares in Becoming Friends of Time (p93).
At CLC Network, we use the ‘puzzle piece perspective’ to demonstrate this lens for community in a tangible way.
Drawing on 1 Corinthians 12, we describe the body of Christ as a giant, billion-piece puzzle that is beautiful to God.
Every person in that puzzle piece was knit together by God (Psalm 139), and we like to color code our strengths with green for growth and pink for our “hot spots” or weaknesses.
We hold up these puzzle pieces together and talk about how our strengths and weaknesses in community create a pleasing picture to God. There must be a reason that no one consists entirely of strengths, after all! (At least, that’s what I tell myself when I am frustrated by my ‘pinks’.)
When one of the puzzle pieces is missing from community, each person misses out on an opportunity to see God’s grace at work.
Perhaps you’ve experienced this feeling when assembling a jigsaw puzzle. If you’re like me, you know the frustration of assembling a puzzle, only to discover you’re missing a piece! On the other hand, there is always a fight in my house to put that last piece in the puzzle – the satisfaction of knowing exactly how and where it fits, and sliding it right into place.
That’s not to say that the human puzzle pieces all fit together naturally, without struggle. Including persons with disabilities in our communities requires perseverance, grace, knowledge, and funding. Sometimes we must try new ideas and exhibit flexibility in response to one puzzle piece.
At CLC Network, we have been helping puzzle pieces fit together in Christ-centered community for more than thirty years, and we have yet to find a puzzle piece that tells us we have reached the definitive border of what is possible.
We trust God to guide our hands, to guide our work, and to guide the people we serve as we do the daily work of making puzzle piece communities more complete, more whole.
Thank you to all of you who daily assemble puzzles together. Our parents, our churches, our schools, our students, will see it and rejoice with you as you find a way for every person, regardless of their ability, to complete your body of Christ. I pray that you might find your place in the puzzle of Christian community, and enter into this school and ministry year with a renewed heart for the most challenging of puzzle pieces.
Share the Puzzle Piece Perspective with Your Community
Use the puzzle piece lesson plan with your class, congregation, or group with the Inclusion Awareness Kit by Barbara J. Newman. Purchase the kit in our Online Store.
Passionate about inclusive education? Make a contribution to CLC Network to help us create inclusive communities for persons of all abilities.
Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski is the executive director at CLC Network.