Joyful James

Written by Guest Blogger Emily Watlington (@emilywattles)
His name is James, and he has the most infectious smile I have ever seen. He’s only three, but little James has probably been through more than most of us ever will. He was born with only one short arm with two little fingers; they said his missing fibula meant he would never be able to walk.
You’d never know James was orphaned at just a few days old when you see his smile. Hear me when I tell you this boy can captivate and entertain masses. He’s three, mind you, and he has his bones to pick, too. But he is stealing hearts and changing lives by simply being his joyful self.
My point is this: maybe we’re thinking about this whole social justice thing wrong when we start thinking that we can save people. We have so much to learn from those who are in need, like sweet James. We really haven’t got things figured out much better than he does. Sure, we’re potty-trained and we have jobs, but this sweet child has resilient joy.
James has been adopted into one of the best families I can think of, and the joy they get from calling him their son is equally as wonderfult. Playing ourselves up as heroes simply won’t hold. The truth is sometimes we won’t have the answers, or the resources, or the time, or even the desire. But when those we are serving are just as important as we are, and we start having mutual relationships with them, we grow so much more. I don’t mean we should do things for people and expect them to reciprocate it. If gratitude is the expectation I think we need to re-examine. We need to instead love our neighbor like a friend, or a child, or a sibling, accepting their flaws and letting them accept ours. Let them open your eyes and be ready to be changed.
James is walking now. They told him he wouldn’t, but he is. He’s a disabled orphan, he’s not supposed to be radiating joy, but he is. He has the privilege of being three and having no concept of “can’t” or “supposed to.” His life and his story invite us to do the same, and to love others out of joy with no expectations.
To read more on the story of James and his family, check out his Mamma’s blog at