Tuesday thoughts I hope are worthy of 3 days without a post…
The first is a memory from my early twenties. It might have been a Tuesday…
My friend and colleague was staring at his computer screen, a stricken expression on his face. I tentatively asked, “Is everything alright?”
“I just got an email from England. My college professor and his wife had a baby.”
“The baby has Down Syndrome.”
I was taken aback, but still found this announcement to be lovely news and said so. What remained with me long after however, was the despair in my friend’s face, his feelings in that moment that this child would forever struggle and be a hardship for his parents. I mentioned the fact that there is tremendous help and many great programs for children with special needs, that they can have full, happy lives, but my friend seemed to have tuned me out; he was completely caught up in his emotions and fears.
This is the reality for most people facing the unknowns of life with special needs children. And to be perfectly honest, I can’t claim to have any personal knowledge myself. My three children are so-called ‘normal’ kids. But all children are gifts, and those who arrive with special needs are special indeed.
For the last 12 years, my mother-in-law has volunteered every Tuesday in Room 1 of Our Lady of Confidence School (OLC) in Willow Grove, PA. OLC is a Catholic special education school of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, committed to guiding students on the path to independence so that they may become vital contributing members of society. I have heard my mother-in-law say, “I am not a holy person,” but the truth is, she doesn’t get to decide. God has called her and all of the staff members at this school and others like it, to do holy works of mercy, serving the beloved members of His kingdom. And they do so with love and tenderness beyond compare.
The children in Room 1 range in age from age 3 1/2 to 7. Most have Down Syndrome, but some students have had Trisomy 9, Williams Syndrome, Fragile X, and autism, usually in conjunction with Down Syndrome. At times, there have been as many as 10 children in the class, but currently there are six. After 12 years, my mother-in-law is now seeing some of her former students go off to high school at Bishop McDevitt.
I wish you could see her face light up as she talks about “our kids in Room 1.” Each one is precious to her. She has told me stories of the children celebrating holidays, making gifts for their parents, even having high tea to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton! And she would be quick to tell you – every Tuesday they bring her JOY.
The kids are always happy to see her. They smile and hug and care for one another in ways that other children do not. The empathy they have for their fellow human beings is a rare quality we need to appreciate for what it is – a form of divine wisdom.
Every child is a gift. And every child has gifts to share.
This the gift we receive when we step beyond our fears and into the unknown. It is God’s promise to us when we take His hand and say, “I trust You. I trust that You can take a situation I don’t understand and turn it into something beautiful.”
Watch this video from ABC news. I think you’ll see the same wonderful things my mother-in-law has been experiencing all these years at OLC.