Archive for April 8th, 2022

Overcoming Handicaps


Written by Timothy Keller, a contemporary pastor and author. This is an excerpt from his book “Generous Justice.”

In the 1980s Nora Ellen Groce was researching hereditary deafness on Martha’s Vineyard. In the seventeenth century, the original European settlers were all from a region in Kent, England, called “the Weald” where there was a high incidence of hereditary deafness. Because of their geographical isolation and intermarriage, the percentage of deaf people increased across the whole island. By the nineteenth century, one out of twenty-five people in the town of Chilmark was deaf and in another small settlement, almost a quarter of the people could not hear. (Today, because of the mobility of the population and marriage with off-islanders, hereditary deafness has vanished. The last deaf person born on the Vineyard died in 1952). In most societies, physically handicapped people are forced to adapt to the life patterns of the nonhandicapped, but that is not what happened on the Vineyard. One day Groce was interviewing an older island resident and she asked him what the hearing people thought of the deaf people. “We didn’t think anything about them, they were just like everyone else,” he replied. Groce responded that it must have been necessary for everyone to write things down on paper in order to communicate with them. The man responded in surprise, “No, you see everyone here spoke sign language.” The interviewer asked if he meant the deaf people’s families. No, he answered, “Everybody in town—I used to speak it, my mother did, everybody.” Another interviewee said, “Those people weren’t handicapped. They were just deaf.” One other remembered “They [the deaf] were like anybody else. I wouldn’t be overly kind because they, they’d be sensitive to that. I’d just treat them the way I treated anybody.”  Indeed, what happened was that an entire community had disadvantaged itself en masse for the sake of a minority. Instead of making the non-hearing minority learn to read lips, the whole hearing majority learned signing. All the hearing became bilingual, so deaf people were able to enter into full social participation. As a result of “doing justice” (disadvantaging themselves) the majority “experienced shalom”—it included people in the social fabric who in other places would have fallen through it…Deafness as a “handicap” largely disappeared.


Written by Winfield Bevins, a contemporary seminary professor.

O God, the King of righteousness, lead us in the ways of justice and peace, inspire us to break down all tyranny and oppression, to gain for every person what is due to them. May each live for all and all care for each. Amen.


I Won’t Let Go:   Performed by Rascal Flats.

Written in 2009 by Steve Robson and Jason Sellers.

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