FOLLOWING THE 1994 Year of the Family, the UN has designated 1995 the Year of Tolerance. It seems unlikely that this will receive the.prominence that last year's did as it raises far greater political difficulties.
PETER IS 14. HE Is a lively lad. He wasn't always very good at doing his homework and he could be a bit cheeky, but on the other hand he was always willing to run errands for his Mum, and he was brilliant on the football field.
He was kicking a football around with a couple of friends on some waste ground one day during the summer holidays when Gary, a boy who lived in the next road, came past. Everybody knew that Gary was a bit slow. He looked odd as well; he had a big chin and goofy teeth and always wore specially built-up shoes. He stopped and watched them kicking the ball about. Peter shouted across to him: "What are you staring at, Goofy? Shove off." His mates laughed and threw some clumps of earth at Gary. Gary just put his head down and walked away. One of Pete's mate's said, "I feel a bit sorry for him sometimes. Ile hasn't got any friends. Why don't we let him join in?"
Pete said: "Because he's a wally, that's why."
At the start of the Autumn term, there was a new boy called Sean in Pete's class. His Dad had got a job in the area, and so the family had moved from the town where Sean had been born. From the very first day everybody wanted to be his friend. He was such a joker, and he was a fantastic football player. His desk was next to Pete's, and the two of them became best friends.
Sean joined the football team, which hadn't had a good season the previous year, but with Sean as their star striker they started winning matches from the word go. The strange thing was that Mr Griffiths, the PE teacher, always brought Sean off at halftime, or didn't send him on until the second half. Sean didn't seem to mind either. Pete wondered about this for weeks and, in the end, he just had to ask Sean about it. He brought it up one lunchtime when, as usual, they were booting a football around, "Oh, it's just this thing I've got," Sean said. "I get breathless if 1 play too long. It's called cystic fibrosis." "But you'll get better some time, won't you?" Pete asked.
"No I won't," Scan said. "I was born with it, and they can't cure it, so I'll always have it. Come on, I'll go in goal and you take some shots." Walking home that afternoon, Pete couldn't get over how matter-of-fact Sean was about his illness, and how he wouldn't let it stop him enjoying life. Pete thought that he'd never met anyone that brave before in his life.
He turned into his road, and bumped into Gary. Gary didn't say anything, he just stood there looking sad and lonely as usual. It suddenly occurred to Pete that Gary was in the same boat as Sean.
His Mum had said that Gary had what they called a "learning difficulty" or mental handicap, and that it wasn't something that could be cured.
"Hi, Gary," Pete said. "Fancy a kickabout before tea?"
• Write the story from Gary's point of view. Think how you may have felt if you have ever been left out.
• Do you know anyone who has a disability? Do you treat them like Pete and the boys did Gary?
• Think of something you can do well. Imagine not being able to do it. How much would you
lose in your life if you could not do it?
• Is it hard to tolerate people who cannot do things as well as you?
• What should a Christian's attitude be to those people with disabilities?
Matthew 5:1-12, 7:1-5 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 Hebrews 13:1-3
Lord Jesus, you called everyone to follow your way to the Father.
Help us to follow your way, and to use our strengths to support our fellow travellers.
Help us to see and value their strength, support them in their weakness, and accept their support when we are weak.
And, when we all fail, give us your strength to sustain us.
Taken from "Tolerance", a resource pack for senior schools, which is produced by the Diocesan Social Welfare Agencies through Catholic Care North East, St Cuthbert's House, West Road, Newcastleupon-Tvne, NE15 71'Y There is a parallel pack available Pr primary schools.