“Ah, a chance to get out of the classroom for a little while,” I think as I briskly walk through the school courtyard. I hurry because my class was already 50 paces ahead of me. I had stopped to double check my photography gear and secure the door. Here I am again headed toward the school auditorium, ready to document another event.

In this theater full of a thousand chatty teenagers, the lights lower, and over the sound system the distinctive opening guitar riff of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck reverberates. As the stage begins to fill with several dozen performers, my eyes well with tears. I find myself in the midst of a holy moment.

I did not expect what would happen over the next 45 minutes. This was not an ordinary school performance; this was something special. This was the ESE Inclusion Dance. ESE stands for Exceptional Student Education or what many would also refer to as special needs.

The ESE students, along with several ‘regular’ students, danced and danced and danced for the next 45 minutes. Not only did they perform, a room full of teenagers wildly cheered them on, and I cried behind my camera lense.

I cried because this moment was holy.

Holy?! Thunderstruck? Yes, holy.

Since losing our daughter London Joy a year and a half ago, I find myself often confronted by holy moments. Most of these moments, I would have previously considered mundane or least mildly remarkable. It’s not that I consider myself more of a Scrooge than any other person; it’s just the rhythm of normal life. We live life along a string of ordinary days marked by the occasional extraordinary event. We live looking forward to the next great thing – holidays, vacations, promotions, a proposal, a wedding, graduation, childbirth – the BIG things. Most of the stuff that happens in between these milestones is often felt to be inconsequential; that’s just how normal people live.

One of the 257 ‘holy moments’ we were able to capture of London Joy.

However, for those who have lost a great love, we count the missed potential. We count the days that should have been.

As I watched these teenagers with various disabilities dance with great, infectious joy, my heart counted the days with London that will never be. If she had lived, 12 or 13 years in the future, that would be her on that stage; my sweet, red-headed daughter, a child with special needs.

While some of the tears I wept were for my loss, I wept more in joy. At that moment, these children were not being cast off; they were not hidden away. They were on display – celebrated as individuals of value; worthy of applause and recognition.

THAT is what made this moment holy. Any time we recognize AND honor the imago dei, the image of God, in another human being, we are partaking in God’s work. I would daresay that is even truer when we find the imago dei in those considered less-able, less-fortunate and less-privileged. When we value and love others in a manner that is Christ-like, we bring forth a Heavenly reality on our earthly plane.

Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:49

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