Talking animals,  grotesque monsters who become pets, and ghoulish characters doing foolish, silly things are all the makings of great fantasy.  In Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, the heroine becomes entangled in a world that seems subhuman at first glance.  Everyone appears to be either super silly, bonkers or misinformed. 

I’ve seen the movie twice and I plan to see it several more times.  Though I would never take a child with me, this is an action film that sucks you into its lost world, playing with your mind and heart until you find yourself totally in love with its whimsical and bazaar characters, especially the Mad Hatter. 

After viewing the movie with several Special Gathering members and our program director from South Carolina, Teddy whose disability is Prater Willi and within autism spectrum jumped from his seat and yelled at the top of his soprano voice, “Okay, Everybody, let’s get out of here.”  Fortunately, the theatre was empty except for the six of us.  Even though, the program director from SC corrected him for being inappropriately loud, we could not help but laugh because we know and love Teddy and understand that his disability and lack of consistent training make this type of outburst inevitable on occasion. 

On the way out, shy and reserved Peter stopped to proudly show us his new ring that he had purchased the day before for the 100th time.  Kenny unaware of anyone or anything else hustled toward the parking lot ahead of the rest of the group.  The gentle giant, Teddy now lagged behind.  He perused and mumbled about all the giant posters that lodged in the lobby.  Pulling on his senses and curiosity, they created an enormous temptation for him.  He held his hands together and spoke softly to himself, “Don’t touch.  Don’t touch.”

After we had gotten out of the theatre with everyone safely in the vehicle, I asked the program director, “Do you ever feel like Alice in Wonderland?” 

She laughed and said, “I refuse to answer that question.”  But her look and contented smile told the story.  We sat in silence for a long time.  I reviewed my wonderfully creative and inquisitive members, one by one.  No.  Those of us who minister within the mentally challenged community haven’t fallen down some unknown rabbit hole into a lost world, though it may feel that way at times.

For we often minister unseen and unknown as though this world is only visible to us.  We reach, teach, correct, disciple and love.  But this isn’t a lost, fantasy world that we can leave by climbing out of the rabbit hole.  These are real people who live happy and hurting lives.  They deserve genuine compassion and godly training.  In return, our members give back so much love and gratitude, that it does often seem that we have been transported into an alternate universe.  A world lost where people actually care and really try to make godly decisions. A place where people don’t need to be taught to love without abandon as Christ loved.

After rethinking, perhaps falling down a rabbit hole into a lost world isn’t a bad analogy for special needs ministries after all.