Last week when we were on our bicycle adventure we had stopped to play in the park. Lu ran off to play and I followed her. There was a little girl playing on the slide with her grandmother. She was probably about 4 years old and very very verbal, almost describing her play as it occurred. I didn’t think that much about it as I followed Lu up the platform but when we got to the top, the grandmother began to describe where Lu was to the her. I noticed immediately that her eyes were closed and she was obviously blind.
As we got to the top of the platform, I introduced Lu and she immediately went for her face and body. The grandmothers’ instincts were to tell her to stop but I told her it was alright and moved Lu closer to her and took her hands towards Lu’s. Lu sat patiently as the little girl touched her hands, face, arms, body and asked about a zillion question about Lu and me. The grandmothers’ eyes were filled with tears as the girls sat upon the platform and “played.”
However, the next thing that happened was the true ray of sunshine. Eph came bounding up the stairs at full action hero speed. He came to an abrupt stop as he looked at the little girl and her odd eyes touching his sister. He knelt down, looked at her and proclaimed, “her eyes are broken.” To which I said, “yes, that is how God made her special just like God made Daddy and Grandma & Grandpa special by making them Deaf.” Of course he was completely satisfied with that answer and quickly moved to get close to her. He allowed her to feel his face, touch his hands and ask him the same zillion questions that she had asked Lu. He was not even the least bit shy or apprehensive about her or her difference. He even offered to hold her hand and help her to the slide.
It was as if his natural instincts just told him what to do and he did it, not because he was trying to gain some attention or because it was the “right” thing to do, but just because they are both kids on the playground.
When does it change? When does being friends with those who have a disability become nothing more than “charity.” Do you have any true friends with significant disabilities that are just your friends? Someone you have coffee with? Share a book? Talk about parenting? Does your child have friends with a disability?
When Eph was 3, he was enrolled in a peer based preschool program for children with special needs. This program has 12 children, 8 whom are considered to have special needs (mild to moderate) and 4 that are typical developing. In Eph’s class there were 2 children with severe autism, a Spanish speaking child, an Hindu speaking child, a sweet little girl in a wheel chair, and boy with hearing loss and dwarfism and the rest were mostly boys, like Eph who are just a tad busier than what your normal preschool teacher would allow. When the little girl in the wheelchair joined the class, the boys would literally fight over who could push her out the playground or from the desk to the circle time mat. They adored her and she was no different than them.
I know that Eph’s exposure to children of all kinds (and being raised in a Deaf family) has made him more gentle and sensitive to those that are different and at the same time has made it so that these differences do not really matter.
As we wrapped up are play time at the park and said goodbye to our new friend, my husband came up and started signing with all of us. If you had just seen him out there, you never would have known that he was Deaf. The grandmother’s tears began to stream down her face. I held my breath for a minute and wondered, what kind of experiences must she usually have at the park that would make her cry just because my children played with hers? It made me sad to think that this beautiful child may not often get played with at the park just because “her eyes are broken.”
None of us are broken. We are all exceptional. How are you going to teach your children about differences and disabilities? How can you raise a child that does not see having friends with differences as a charity project?
I am so blessed that God has given us the life we have, so don’t feel sorry for me. Instead take time to cultivate a love of all people in your children. Raise up a generation that accepts everyone for their differences.